Dalton State Evaluates Proposed HOPE Revisions


Dalton State College officials are evaluating impacts of Governor Nathan Deal’s proposed changes to the HOPE program funded by the Georgia Lottery.

According to Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Jodi Johnson, a total of 2,278 students enrolled this semester at Dalton State receive some kind of HOPE award. Of those, 1,532 (67%) receive the HOPE Scholarship (for degree-seeking students), 711 (31%) receive the HOPE Grant (for certificate-seeking students), and 35 students (2%) who earned the GED and enrolled in college receive a $500 voucher. The total headcount for spring semester is 5,723 students, Johnson said.

A total of 1,212 students (21%) are enrolled in Learning Support classes in reading, English and/or math to ensure they are adequately prepared for the rigor of college coursework. Of those students, 405 (18%) currently receive some form of HOPE assistance. Under the governor’s proposed plan, the HOPE Scholarship would no longer be available to Learning Support students, while HOPE Grant students would still be eligible to receive HOPE while enrolled in Learning Support courses.

Of the Dalton State students in remedial classes, 45% would no longer be eligible for HOPE; 47% would be.

Historically, about 65% of Dalton State HOPE Scholarship recipients become ineligible at the first GPA checkpoint when they dip below the 3.0 required grade point average, Johnson said. The governor’s proposal would raise the required GPA for full HOPE funding (the Zell Miller HOPE Scholarship) to a 3.7 qualifying GPA from high school (with more rigorous high school courses required) and 3.5 to retain it in college. Students must earn a minimum 3.0 college GPA to maintain the traditional HOPE Scholarship which will fund 90% of tuition costs. In addition, students in certificate programs will be required to earn a minimum GPA of 3.0 to retain the HOPE Grant for which there has previously been no performance requirement.

“We must remember that the original intent of the HOPE Scholarship was to provide economic incentive for students to pursue academic rigor in high school and high academic achievement in college, and also to keep the best and brightest students in Georgia,” Johnson said. “At first reading, the governor’s proposals seem true to that original intent.

“We are also intrigued by the provision for need-based aid which could be significant to our student population,” she added. The governor’s proposal provides $20 million funding for a one percent interest loan program for students with demonstrated financial need. In addition, loans could be forgiven completely for students who teach K-12 science, technology or math after graduating college.

“On balance, it looks like a carefully considered and constructed plan,” Johnson said. “It will certainly have an impact on our Learning Support students who currently receive HOPE, but the plan looks to be faithful to the original intent of the scholarship program.

“We must also keep in mind that this is still a proposed bill and that much can change between now and when it becomes law,” she said.