Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Georgia Study Cites Hope for Student Retention, Better Grades: Model for National Plan Appears Successful

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Georgia Study Cites Hope for Student Retention, Better Grades: Model for National Plan Appears Successful

Article excerpt

ATLANTA--In Georgia, borderline college students who depend on Hope scholarships to pay their tuition and fees are more likely to remain in school take snore courses and earn better grades, according to a new study by the Council for School Performance, an independent think tank.

Researchers examining the effects of the state's lottery-funded Hope scholarship program, now in its third year, found that the grant motivates students to do well and stay in school.

The study's findings could up President Bill Clinton's chances of selling his national Hope scholarship plan, patterned after the one here, to politicians in Washington who oppose it.

"There are significant differences between the president's plan and Georgia's program, but there are also significant similarities," said Dr. Terry W. Hartle, a vice president of the American Council on Education.

"The findings from the Georgia study are impressive in their own right," Hartle said, "and they have become available at a time when they might have significant impact on national public policy."

Since Georgia's first lottery ticket was sold on June 29, 1993, gas station and convenience store gamblers have generated more than $333 million for this state's Hope scholarships. The state has tentative plans to spend another $161 million on the program next year.

As a result, more than 238,000 students have used the money to underwrite their tuition and fees and attend the Georgia's thirty-four colleges and universities and its thirty-two technical schools.

To qualify, graduating high school seniors must have at least a 3.0 grade average. But keeping that average is a bit harder. Nevertheless, those students who lose the scholarship when their grades dip below a B average are staying in college at higher than expected rates.

Something about losing it makes them want to make a turn around, says Jeanette Huff, the financial aid director at Fort Valley State University, where just under 10 percent of the school's 3,000 students are on Hope scholarships. Most of them get it back once they get past the freshman year adjustment period."

Huff, who has seen anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of Fort Valley State's Hope recipients lose their grants in the first year, adds, "They have to understand that even though that 3.0 or better they had in high school got them the Hope scholarship, they must maintain their lessons at the college level to keep it."

The study, released late last month, found that Hope helps relieve the money crunch many students feel when enrolling in the state's ninety-three institutions of higher learning.

The group's findings are based on its examination of "borderline" students who graduated high school with averages between 3.0 and 3.16 and entered college in the fall of 1994. About 61 percent of them are still in school, compared to 51 percent of their counterparts who had solid grades in core academic areas, but did not receive Hope scholarships.

Because Hope students' progress is measured at the end of each year, the recipients are more likely to work harder to keep their grades up. "These students have both a definitive goal and feedback and they acquire credits each quarter," researchers said.

At Atlanta Metropolitan College, where only eighty-three of the school's 1,992 students are on Hope, officials are working to lure more recipients. …

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