Can Hope Scholarship be Used for Graduate Degree or Graduate School?

The quick answer is: “NO”, it cannot be used for a graduate degree or graduate school.  Upon first reading of the regulations, you may not see this important bit of information.  I’ve taken the key points from the Hope Scholarship Regulations to show what the law says with respect to graduate school:

Attempted-Hours Limit.
A student is ineligible to receive HOPE Scholarship payment once he or she reaches the Attempted-Hours limit of 127 semester or 190 quarter hours.
Students Enrolled in specific Undergraduate Degree programs of study designed to require more than 127 semester or 190 quarter hours of coursework for graduation or First Professional Degree Programs are eligible for HOPE Scholarship payment for a maximum of 127 semester or 190 quarter Attempted-Hours.

First Professional Degree Program.
A student enrolled in a First Professional Degree program may receive HOPE
Scholarship payment until such student has attempted 127 semester or 190
quarter hours.

You’ll notice that the term “first professional degree program” is used in the regulation wording.  It is important to understand the definition of this term:
“First Professional Degree Program” means a non-undergraduate program of
study that: (1) Accepts students after the completion of two or three years of
postsecondary study; (2) Results in the award of a non-undergraduate degree;
and (3) Has been specifically approved by the Commission for inclusion as a
First Professional Degree Program. For the 2012-2013 Award Year, Doctor of
Pharmacy Degree Programs, Masters of Health Science with a major in
Occupational Therapy Programs, Doctor of Chiropractic Degree Programs, and
Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs offered by Eligible Postsecondary
Institutions are approved by the Commission, and therefore considered First
Professional Degree Programs. Regardless of approval by the Commission as a
First Professional Degree Program, no student is eligible to receive HOPE
Scholarship payment once he or she has earned a Baccalaureate Degree of any
type, from any postsecondary institution, at any time.

This is very clear wording with respect to the eligibility of the Hope Scholarship for graduate degree study.  The last sentence clearly states that no student is eligible to receive HOPE Scholarship payment once he or she as earned a bachelors degree of any type, from any institution, at any time.

So, not only is a graduate degree not eligible, but a second bachelors degree is also not eligible, and any coursework beyond the bachelors degree is not eligible.


Merit based scholarships and student migration

A 2011 study entitled, “State Merit Based Scholarship Programs Influence on Outmigration” by Joseph A. Williams and John Burczek Dreier looked at state based merit scholarship programs and the influence of these programs on migration on students.

Included are key points as relating to Georgia’ Hope Scholarship program and findings…

“The first such program was the Georgia Hope Scholarship Program, which initially awarded students with full tuition to Georgia public institutions if they met certain high school GPA requirements. Fourteen other states have enacted similar policies since 1993, offering tuition discounts based on academic credentials (Orsuwan & Heck, 2009).
More recent state merit based scholarship programs enacted since the Georgia Hope Scholarship Program varied in funding source, award criteria, and award amount. While most state programs were funded through lottery revenues, other states utilized one time litigation settlement agreements to fund scholarship programs (Orsuwan & Heck, 2009). Furthermore, each state had distinct criteria regarding award criteria: GPA, SAT, ACT, class rank, state tests, or any combination of these account for the measures used to allocate awards. The award amounts were just as varied as the award criteria: full tuition and fees for four years or a one-time award of $1,000 were two extremes. Regardless of the funding source, criteria, and award amount, prior research depicted the influence of state merit based scholarship programs on students’ enrollment within their home state for higher education (Orsuwan & Heck, 2009).
The objective to retain residents in their home state for college was the short-term objective of state merit based aid programs. The long-term goal of some the state merit based aid policy initiative was to keep college graduates in state. Given a state’s investment, retaining its college graduates was critical to a state’s economic development. Strathman (2004) found that college graduates leaving their state upon graduation negatively impacted state appropriations for higher education. Further, social benefits associated with college graduates—lower unemployment, higher tax revenues, and voter participation—were often cited as valuable assets for states (Baum & Ma, 2007). Recent findings indicated that students receiving state merit based scholarships were 74% more inclined to leave that state upon college graduation (Ishitani, 2011). This troubling finding suggested that state merit based scholarship programs, regardless of their influence on high school student migration, may lead to unintended consequences such as outmigration of college graduates. Although this study will focus on migration of high school graduates, understanding students’ mobility post-college is an aspect that cannot be ignored and is a subject requiring additional research.
Purpose of the Study
Previous research delved into various issues related to student migration following high school. In many instances, studies conducted extensive state level analysis aiming to address how specific policies at a single state affect student enrollment patterns. For example, Groen (2003) studied migration effects in Georgia given the goals of the Hope Scholarship Program. However, he primarily focuses on migration of Georgia Hope recipients once graduating from college. In addition, Hickman (2009) aimed to study how Florida’s Bright Futures Program related to student migration out of state. These studies were valuable at the state level, and they have indicated a need for a national study of state merit based scholarship programs. Orsuwan & Heck (2009) recently studied how state scholarship dollars and pre-paid tuition plans affected migration.”

“The findings of our research demonstrate the presence of state merit based scholarship
programs influencing residents to stay in their home state for higher education. This finding only partially affirms what policy makers intended to influence with the enactment of programs such as the Georgia Hope Scholarship (Zhang & Ness, 2010).”

“Our study also poses some interesting questions for how policy makers interpret research findings on tuition pricing and outmigration. Given the insignificant findings of tuition prices at two- and four-year public institutions, further research is needed to more acutely measure tuition net-price, which accounts for tuition less any financial aid. Our study urges future policy makers to address the notion of net-price of tuition by creating better national data collection on the net-price, which would improve research examining student migration patterns. The recent National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) initiative to collect more robust data on institutional net-price has potential to more accurately derive metrics of tuition net-price for future research.
Another consideration for policy is that our results illustrate that state appropriations have influence in decreasing outmigration. Our research shows that as state appropriations increased, out-of-state migration decreased. This result is important to consider for state legislators as they reflect on the future of state merit based scholarship programs. Additionally, assessing the effectiveness of these programs is important during turbulent budget years, as many costly programs are discontinued or phased out.”

Georgia Second Highest Tuition Increase in Country

Georgia gets the dubious distinction of coming in second place…second place in the country for net tuition and fee increases in the 5 year period from 2008-2013.  Although many city, county, and state government spending held to near flat in the same period, Georgia’s net tuition revenue per student nearly doubled with an increase of 93 percent.  So what state achieved the first place distinction in this dubious contest?  That goes to New Mexico, where the net tuition and fee increase in the 5 year period almost tripled; it increased by 188 percent.

The data is reported by the “State Higher Education Finance” report which was released by the nonprofit association of higher education chief executive officers.

The  calculations are based on “net” tuition which takes into account both the tuition and fees that students pay and also how much state aid adjusts those costs through programs such as Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program. The amounts were adjusted for inflation, with all dollars expressed in constant 2013 values.

However, although Georgia students pay a lot more in tuition than they did five years ago, the average tuition paid by a full-time Georgia student, is just under $1000 less than the national average with Georgia at $4,484 with the U.S. average at $5,445, the report notes.

During this time period of increased tuition and fees, Georgia was also reducing the award amounts funded through the Hope Scholarship Program.  Based on GSFC (Georgia Student Finance Commission) numbers,  the HOPE Scholarship and HOPE Grant declined from a peak of $748 million in the 2010-11 school year to about $526 million for the current year.

With new rigor requirements, GPA levels (Zell Miller Scholarship), and other changes, Georgia State lawmakers also cut the number of students getting the awards as well as the value of the scholarships. For example, approximately 256,000 students received HOPE aid in 2010-11, but only approximately 198,000 received it this year.

There is some speculation that the HOPE Scholarship may have actually helped catalyze the steep rise in tuition costs, said state Rep. Spencer Frye.

Initially, HOPE covered the full costs of tuition and fees, so when the state Board of Regents hiked tuition, the dollar amount of HOPE scholarships increased in consort to compensate.  With the cost reductions in the Hope program, that is no longer the case.

Looking more closely at Georgia’s state research universities, the increase is more dramatic: in 2002-2003, University of Georgia undergrad tuition and fees were $3,616 per year. This year, it was $10,262 — not adjusted for inflation — according to state Board of Regents statistics; next year the tuition rate increases $560.

The State Board of Regents approved a 7 percent tuition increase for UGA. Georgia Tech students will see an increase of  9 percent more next year, but at most state schools the increase is a more modest 2.5 percent.

Now that the Hope Scholarship has gone through the cost reduction process, perhaps Georgia’s state universities should as well.  Perhaps, in the next five years, Georgia can come strive for best in class for lowest tuition and fees increases.