Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Study Questions Merit of Georgia's Popular Scholarship Program

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Study Questions Merit of Georgia's Popular Scholarship Program

Article excerpt

NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Study Questions Merit of Georgia's Popular Scholarship Program

Georgia's Hope Scholarship program, which provides up to $3,000 a year in college aid to high school students graduating with a B average, has significantly boosted Black student enrollment at the state's four-year colleges and universities.

The number of African American students enrolled at Georgia's public four-year schools jumped 24 percent from 1993 to 1998, a leap largely attributable to the 7-year-old program, which is the nation's largest state-financed, merit-based aid program.

The 48-page report, The Enrollment Effects of Merit-Based Financial Aid: Evidence From Georgia's Hope Scholarship, reveals that Black student enrollment at private four-year colleges in the state also rose by 12 percent.

But the report, released in January by two economics professors at the University of Georgia, coneludes that those enrollment gains at Georgia colleges and universities likely came at the expense of historically Black colleges and universities located in surrounding states.

The study found that in 1994, enrollments at nearby predominantly Black institutions such as Florida A&M, Alabama State, Tuskegee, Alabama A&M and Tennessee State dropped 34 percent from 1992, the year prior to Hope's introduction.

"The bottom line with this scholarship is that it is not something that is generating large, new enrollment increases," says Dr. Christopher Cornwell, co-author of the report and an associate professor of economics at the University of Georgia.

Instead, the report indicates the program's broadest impact has been to entice top-notch students to attend in-state colleges and universities in record numbers. Today, 76 percent of Georgia high school students with combined SAT scores greater than 1500, out of a possible 1600, now attend college in state, compared with just 23 percent in 1992.

Cornwell and his research partner, Dr. David B. Mustard, an assistant professor of economics, found that the scholarship program had almost no measurable effect on enrollment at the state's two-year colleges.

The researchers say a leap in enrollment at the state's two-year colleges would be strong evidence that the scholarship program has had a profound impact on increasing access to postsecondary education. But they found no such evidence.

The researchers also say first-time freshman enrollment in the state increased a mere 11 percent over the seven-year period studied, but it came at a time when institutions nationwide were posting record enrollments.

Georgia's lottery-funded Hope program, which has been replicated in at least a dozen other states and also served as the basis for President Bill Clinton's federal Hope tuition tax credit, has distributed more than $1 billion to more than 500,000 students since its inception in 1993.

In fact, its success has pressured the neighboring states of Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee to propose merit-based scholarships of their own. Florida officials approved a similar program, the Bright Futures Scholarship Program, in 1997. That program gave out more than $160 million in scholarships to some 100,000 students in its first two years, the study states.

The only other study to examine the impact of Georgia's Hope Scholarship found that the program increased the college-going rate of 18- to 19-year-olds from 7 percent to 8 percent. …

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