Georgia Code Title 20 Hope Scholarships and Grants Ineligibility

In looking up information concerning the Georgia hope scholarship legislation, I found it quite difficult to find the actual legislation documents describing the law behind the program.  In order to help others, I am posting the key legislation in a series of posts.  This is the first of three. Continue reading

Georgia’s Hope Scholarship is the standard for other states merit scholarship programs

There are currently more than 25 states which provide a reward in the form of financial aid for college students with eligibility solely due to excelling in academic achievement, as opposed to some form of financial demonstrated need. Approximately, thirteen states, most located in the South, award an excessive of more than half of their financial aid awards based on academic achievement.

Today, that movement may be picking up increased momentum.

During the years 2010-2011 with Georgia’s Hope scholarship merit based program facing financial difficulty, lawmakers agreed to increase the academic requirements for the Hope and Zell Miller scholarships instead of defunding the program or adding a financial need component for eligibility.

College administrators appear to agree that the change will help keep the program funded and remain solvent.

There are some who argue that the increased academic rigor tends to favor students from higher income families; however, the changes have leveled the playing field with respect to grade inflation and lack of grade standardization among schools. The Georgia legislature added an SAT/Act minimum score target along with a minimum GPA for the largest of the
hope scholarship awards, the Zell Miller Scholarship. Having an SAT/ACT minimum level provide a standardized measure of achievement to balance the student GPA scores which can have different weighting and difficulty levels based on the curriculum and grading standards of each particular school.

Georgia—whose Hope scholarship program is one of the largest merit-based programs
in the country and is seen as a standard by which other programs are measured—is at the forefront of an increasing national debate over state-backed financial aid for college students. The discussion centers around whether states should provide aid to the highest-achieving students, regardless of income, or should state funding go to students based on financial need?

Advocates of merit scholarships, or a combination of merit and financial need, say focusing
on achievement attempts to reduce a “brain drain” of talented residents going elsewhere to college in other states, and rewards those who study hard and apply themselves. There is also the thought that if a sports athlete can receive scholarships based on physical ability then why can’t an “academic athlete” receive a similar award for intellectual ability.

Georgia has not rested on the changes made in 2010-2011. Recently, the Georgia Legislature defined an increased set of academic requirements, or academic rigor, that high school students must attain to be considered for Hope scholarship or the Zell Miller Scholarship. This combined with the minimum GPA and minimum SAT/ACT (for Zell Miller) helps to ensure a level playing field for determining what actually defines the academic excellence level required for merit eligibility. With these continue improvements,
Georgia will continue to be at the forefront, and therefore, the standard, by which other states measure their own merit based programs.

Home School Student Eligibility for Hope Scholarship Improves

The Georgia Legislature, with passage and enactment of Georgia House Bill 810 on April 22, 2014, has changed the eligibility requirements for home school students.  Graduates of home study programs will be able to qualify for a HOPE Scholarship with a lower score on an admissions test. Previously, graduates of home study programs would need to score at the 85th percentile on a test such as the SAT or ACT.  With the passage of HB 810, homeschoolers will now be required to score at the 80th percentile on such tests when the law goes into effect on July 1, 2014. Homeschool graduates who achieve the newly defined minimum admission test scores are eligible to receive the hope scholarship funds at the beginning of their freshman year.

Independent of the SAT or ACT test score requirement, current Georgia law also permits homeschool graduates to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship after starting college by earning a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 after the student has attempted 45 quarter hours or 30 semester hours at an eligible college or university. But, in this instance, the hope scholarship funds are applied retroactively and not provided to the student until the end of the student’s freshman year.

Georgia HB 697 may form Zell Miller Scholarship for technical colleges

The state of Georgia General Assembly has enacted a new bill entitled House Bill (HB) 697 (HOPE: revise amount of grants; equal student’s cost of tuition) which would create a version of the Zell Miller scholarship targeted to technical college students who maintain at least a 3.5 GPA.

This version of the Zell Miller Grant will provide full tuition for any students at technical colleges in the state of Georgia by including and defining a new paragraph as part of the original Zell Miller Scholarship eligibility for students that attend qualified technical colleges in the state of Georgia.

HB 697 reads that a student attending a technical college in the state of Georgia who maintains a minimum GPA of 3.5 will qualify as a “Zell Miller Grant Scholar.” With this designation, all of the student’s collegiate expenses are then paid in full.

This bill does not change the eligibility or reward amounts for four year university students.  These students cannot qualify to be scholars under this bill. Zell Miller scholarship students at these universities must maintain a 3.7 GPA to receive full tuition through the Zell Miller scholarship.


For those students at technical colleges that are eligible, their tuition, books and room and board are all paid with the grant.

The Zell Miller Scholarship was created from the Hope Scholarship in 2011. They are now two separate scholarships.

The original Zell Miller Scholarship was only offered to high school students who maintained a 3.7 GPA and graduated with that GPA or higher. The award also requires that students receive a combined score of 1200 on the SAT or a 26 composite score on the ACT on one sitting of the test, according to the GAcollege411 website.  The student can also qualify by being the Valedictorian or Salutatorian for their graduating high school class. These requirements along with being a Georgia resident and other HOPE scholarship eligibility requirements also determined if a student would receive the Zell Miller scholarship.

SAT Score Calculation for Zell Miller Scholarship

The Georgia Legislature recently changed the requirements for the Zell Miller Scholarship.  Along with a 3.7 GPA, the student must score a 1200 on the SAT or a 26 for the composite ACT score.  However, many colleges calculate the SAT based on the best of the math and critical reading scores from multiple SAT attempts.  How is the SAT score calculation for Zell Miller Scholarship determined? Continue reading