The Case for Eliminating the GPA Requirement from the Proposed Zell Miller Scholars Program


I understand and appreciate the challenges facing the ongoing viability of the HOPE Scholarship program, and I appreciate the legislature’s efforts to remedy the pending budget shortfalls.  I do not disagree with the majority of the proposed changes to the HOPE program.  However, the pending requirement to attain a 3.7 High School GPA to qualify for the prospective Zell Miller Scholarship is problematic for the following reasons:

  1. A student already enrolled in a Georgia College who has previously failed to achieve a 3.7 High School GPA would never be eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship, even if—in the extreme case—they scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT and held a 4.0 GPA in college.
  2. How grades are awarded vary widely from school to school, so GPA is an unreliable indicator of ability.  Most universities focus on aptitude tests such as the SAT and ACT for this reason.  Georgia Tech, for instance, requires that the student self-report their grades.  The state’s premier technical university realizes the problem with GPA and focuses on aptitude tests and extra-curricular excellence. 
  3. The 3.7 GPA requirement penalizes high school students who take honors and AP courses.  Weighting points are removed and if a student gets an A in an AP class, they are unable to get the 0.5 point bump and achieve a 4.5 score.  So the highest weight a student can obtain is 4.0. Without weighting, there is no distinguishing between Honors and remedial classes.  So, perversely, students are motivated to take the easiest possible core curricula to maximize their potential to achieve a 3.7 GPA.
  4. Finally, the 3.7 requirement to maintain the scholarship is completely unreasonable.  The average GPA at Georgia Tech is approximately 3.08 (see chart).  To graduate with an engineering degree from Georgia Tech requires a 2.0, and the average GPA of Tech Presidential Scholars (the top 150 in each class) is 3.68 (source: http://www.me.gatech.edu/docs/ME%20low%20res%20proof.pdf, page 9 ) [Edit: it's now 3.64 as of 2010-- source: http://issuu.com/megeorgiatech/docs/gtme/1?mode=a_p, p 14.]  Student’s in Georgia Tech’s Honors Program have average GPAs of less than 3.5 (see chart. Source: http://www.honorsprogram.gatech.edu/files/AnnualReport2009_2010.pdf, p 21). Given these statistics, the bulk of Georgia Tech’s students, including its Presidential and Honors  awardees, would fail to qualify for the proposed Zell Miller Scholarship.  

These facts relating to the GPA requirement are in conflict with the stated intent of the Zell Miller Scholarship.  We should not be penalizing students who pursue the most challenging curricula in our high schools and universities. And we should not be creating perverse incentives to take easier classes or attend less challenging Universities.

I hope the Georgia legistature will consider these arguments persuasive and work to eliminate the GPA requirement from the Zell Miller Scholarship and focus instead on the SAT/ACT requirement.

***

This article is also available here: http://www.bodamer.com/hope/Zell_Miller_Scholars_GPA_Requirement.htm

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One Response to The Case for Eliminating the GPA Requirement from the Proposed Zell Miller Scholars Program

  1. Update: As a result of this post, I was interviewed by Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal Constitution for this HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship-related article: http://www.ajc.com/opinion/maureen-downey-hope-lite-855871.html

    I also followed-up this post with a discussion of the flaws in the Zell Miller Scholarship:
    http://bodamerblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/the-zell-miller-scholarship-gpa-requirement-is-seriously-flawed/

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