The Zell Miller Scholarship GPA Requirement is Seriously Flawed

As I write this, the revisions to Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship Program (HB 326) have cleared the House and now awaits approval in the Senate.

Last week, I posted my concerns about the originally proposed 3.7 High School GPA requirement to qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship.

One of these concerns was addressed when the House lowered the GPA needed to maintain the scholarship to 3.3 from the originally proposed 3.5.  This was in response to the fact that the average GPA of Presidential Scholars (of which there are only about 150 students in each class) at Georgia Tech is only 3.68 and that the Honors Program participants have GPAs averaging less than 3.5.

However,  I still take issue with the 3.7 High School GPA requirement. If the intent of the Zell Miller Scholarship is, as stated, to create a merit based scholarship which recognizes the top 10% of academic achievers in the State, then the 3.7 High School GPA requirement fails to deliver the desired outcome, because:

  1. It is retroactive for existing college students and high school seniors who cannot travel back in time to improve their HS GPAs.
    1. As written, the Bill envisions that any student who failed to achieve a High School GPA of 3.7 or better, can never obtain the Zell Miller Scholarship–even if, in the extreme case, a student scored a perfect 1600 (Math + Reading) on the SAT and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA as a Aerospace Engineer at Georgia Tech.
    2. Existing college students and high school seniors have no recourse to remedy past GPA shortfalls, as even astrophysicists cannot yet travel back in time and high school seniors cannot materially improve their GPAs in their final semester.
  2. It exacts a penalty on those to have pursued advanced and honors classes, and incentivizes mediocrity. Examples:
    1. Advanced High School students who take Algebra & Geometry in middle school, will find that these clases are not counted toward your HOPE GPA, because they were taken in middle school;
    2. Honors class grades are stripped of their honors weighting factor, thereby treating honors, regular and remedial classes the same for the GPA calculation;
    3. AP classes where an A has been earned do not receive the 0.5 bump, so the maximum upside contribution of an AP class is only 4.0, versus 4.5.  Again, this completely factors out the risk and added difficulty for the student who takes AP as opposed to regular and remedial classes; 
    4. Similarly, the maximum that a Georgia Tech Distance Calculus grade can contribute is a 4.0 vs. a 4.5;
    5. Given the above, high school students who seek to earn the Zell Miller Scholarship are highly motivated to shun advanced curricula since those classes only introduce risk of lowering the student’s GPA.

The math may prove out that 10% of all Georgia students will in fact qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship.  However, I maintain the award will prove elusive for the State’s best and brightest.  The consequence, which I like to believe is unintended, will be: the majority of those who are awarded the Zell Miller Scholarship will be found in the lecture halls of the least challenging institutions in the State.

The fix? a one word swap in the Bill is all that is needed to remedy all the real issues described above. Simply replace the word “and” with “or” in the qualifying language, where a Zell Miller Scholar is described as:

Having graduated from high school with a grade point average of at least 3.7 calculated in accordance with Code Section 20-2-157 and  [or] having received a score of at least 1,200 combined critical reading score and math score on a single administration of the SAT or an ACT composite scale score of at least 26
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17 Responses to The Zell Miller Scholarship GPA Requirement is Seriously Flawed

  1. Cage says:

    I am totally agree with the statement. My daughter achieved high ACT score 32+, but fails fo ZM with 3.68. She is at one of high scoring and rigor HS and taking H and AP classes. With the grade of 96, after removing 7 points, she gets 3; it’s same for all AP classes she is taking. How can we initiate a legislative fix? May be, instead of replacing “and” with “or”, they can add “; or 30+ ACT and equvelant SAT” at the end of the statement. I should admit that recent STEM change is positive but not enough. This must be done if Georgia wants to beat national test scores. Thank you for the post; it is expressing our pain.

  2. My daughter is in the same situation. She has a weighted GPA of 3.8666 and has worked hard to take on many AP and dual enrollment classes during hight school. Her unweighted GPA will not award her the Zell Miller scholarship. I will go on to say that I am very thankful that she will be awarded the HOPE scholarship. Everyone sounds so entitled. We are very fortunate to have these scholarships to help with paying for school. When I was in college these opportunities did not exist. Be THANKFUL people.

  3. Pingback: 2016’s Top 10 Posts | Bodamer Blog

  4. Leslie says:

    I’m glad to see that other people are running into the same problem that I’ve run into. Even though I graduated HS as valedictorian with a 4.0, made A’s in every dual enrollment class I took in high school, and made well over the required SAT score, I’ve been told that I have a HOPE GPA of 3.697. That’s .003 AWAY from qualifying. Even worse, I’m at a loss as to how they came up with this number, and nobody at the Student Finance Commission seems to want to review what is most likely an error on their part. And, this is the ONLY factor preventing me from receiving the full Zell Miller scholarship. I’m a sophomore now with a 4.0 college GPA, and in the past had the majority of my charges each semester covered by HOPE. Now, I’m having to dig up most of the money to pay.

  5. Melanie says:

    I am SERIOUSLY upset right now. GSFC has calculated my HOPE GPA to be 3.6875. I AM JUST .0125 POINTS AWAY FROM QUALIFYING. My SAT score is a 2140 and my ACT score is a 29. My SAT score for just reading and math is a 1390. These scores are WAY above the minimum requirements for the scholarship. I have worked my butt off my entire high school career taking the most academically challenging classes my high school had to offer. I went to one of the most difficult magnet schools in the state, and I have taken about 14 AP classes and have gotten A’s and B’s. However, the people who have never taken an AP class in their life, barely make the SAT/ACT score requirement, and have breezed through high school without studying too much got it because they made A’s in easier classes! Of COURSE if the class is easier, the student will be more likely to get an A. But sometimes, it’s harder to make a B in an AP class than it is to make an A in an honors or on-level class. Yet I don’t get any extra reward for the A’s I nearly killed myself to get in AP classes. Shouldn’t this be based on how smart and hard-working you are, not how good you are at choosing easier classes?

    This last part is just a personal rant, but IF MY AP GOV TEACHER DID NOT PUT THE GRADES IN AT THE LAST MINUTE, AND GRADE HARSHER THAN SHE EVER DID THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER AT THE LAST MINUTE, I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AN A IN THAT CLASS AND HENCE QUALIFIED FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP. I am seriously burning inside right now. I SHOULD have taken honors. Hell, I should have taken on-level. BUT NO. I decided to work my butt off the entire year in an AP class as a senior, and ALL FOR NOTHING. It burns me because I was one of the few people to not cheat on her tests EVER, and this just proves the cheaters really DO prosper. This damn system just encourages either cheating or gives students an incentive to not challenge themselves by taking easier classes. The whole system is so messed up, and it burns me that I have to be the victim of a flawed system.
    Now, I can’t afford college, and it’s killing me.

    • I hear you, and obviously agree with your frustrations. What was implemented was unfair and inconsistent with the stated goal of rewarding the best and brightest. Additionally, I’ve since learned that if you take less than 15 credit hours in a semister, HOPE awards are prorated based on the credits taken, divided by 15. This, however, is not the case with Zell Miller awards which pay out the full amount regardless of number of credit hours taken. So the Zell Miller award winners are further motivated to take fewer classes each semister to maximize their chances of continuing to receive the award. Perverse.

    • Soleil says:

      I am in the exact same situation. My HOPE calculated GPA in high school was a 3.6818. I got a 1370 on SAT (CR+M), and a 32 on ACT. I took Algebra I and Geometry in middle school, and those grades don’t count apparently. I took 7 AP’s in high school as well as a multitude of honors classes. I can’t believe I don’t get weights for my A’s in AP classes! I also took Dual Enrollment English classes in my senior year, but they didn’t get weights, even though they are actual college courses, not just “college-level.” After 2 years of college in the Honors Program at UGA I have a 3.96 GPA. If that isn’t Zell-Miller-worthy, then I’m really not sure what is.

      Get this, students from non-accredited high schools can get Zell Miller by just scoring 1200+ on SAT or 26+ on ACT and having a 3.3 GPA in college. NO high school GPA requirement at all!!

      I made a Facebook page about this:

      Try to spread the word as much as you can. The only way the legislature will listen to us is if enough deserving high-achievers can show that they are affected by this.

    • I understand how you feel….I’m going through the same situation. My SAT and ACT scores are way above the average, BUT my high school GPA isn’t up to par, because I chose to challenge myself and take AP courses. I never made anything less than all A’s until I got to my senior year and took more AP classes. I practically worked my butt of because I WANTED to broaden my horizons and ended up getting a few B’s Senior Year. It KILLS me to see that all the kids that chose the “easy A” classes, were eligible for a scholarship I deserved….

      • I encourage all you students to make your voices heard. Write your representative in the State Senate and House of Representatives. Write Governor Nathan Deal. I expect there will be an opportunity to modify the Zell Miller and HOPE criteria again in the next legislative session because many are still unaware of these flawed changes. Parents and students alike will become painfully aware of the changes as college bills come due next month. I think the legislature’s perspective currently is that they’ve fixed the funding problem with these changes. This perception can only change if they hear your voices and persuasive arguments.
        @Michelle: keep applying yourself and best to you in your college career.

  6. Justin says:

    I agree that it’s not fair that current college students lose their HOPE scholarship, but I think the new requirements are a great idea. I took all the AP and Honors classes my school offered, including some online, and I still qualify for HOPE, even with the extra weight gone. I think if the state is going to pay for someone’s education, then it needs to pay for people who are actually going to use it. Especially since Georgia’s schools are becoming easier and easier to graduate anyway.

    • I think it’s great that you still qualify. Congrats on excellent results from your hard work. Your success, however, does not counter the flaws and perverse incentives I discuss above. Good luck in your college career!

  7. Frank says:

    More likely, to solve the fact that no one can time travel is likely a law too (not 100% sure though.) There needs to be a grandfather clause on the scolarship!

  8. atbodamer says:

    Unfortunately, no. This is one of the major flaws in this new law. It retroactively changes the rules for students in college who cannot travel back in time to requalify under the new criteria.

  9. Abdel says:

    If I am a junior in college and I met the GPA requirement in high school but not the SAT requirement, will I be allowed to take the SAT again? What happens if I score above a 1200?

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