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.
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:
- It is retroactive for existing college students and high school seniors who cannot travel back in time to improve their HS GPAs.
- 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.
- 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.
- It exacts a penalty on those to have pursued advanced and honors classes, and incentivizes mediocrity. Examples:
- 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;
- Honors class grades are stripped of their honors weighting factor, thereby treating honors, regular and remedial classes the same for the GPA calculation;
- 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;
- Similarly, the maximum that a Georgia Tech Distance Calculus grade can contribute is a 4.0 vs. a 4.5;
- 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: