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Audit: Georgia students absorbing greater share of college costs

Audit: Georgia students absorbing greater share of college costs

Statement from Chip Lake, Executive Director for the Committee to Preserve HOPE Scholarships:

“The report released by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts confirms what our Analysis showed in August. Georgia colleges and universities have high demand and are not immune from the same competitive factors such as cuts to higher education funding that are causing tuition to rise around the nation.

 

“The result is a greater share of the burden of paying for college in Georgia has shifted to Georgia families. And the cuts to our cherished HOPE Scholarship have severely impacted the ability for students from around the state to attend school in Georgia.

 

“It’s clear that additional funding for the HOPE Scholarships needs to be a high priority for Georgia lawmakers. You can’t fix this problem any other way. Every day we do nothing, Georgia families lose.”


 

Article originally published: Atlanta Business Chronicle, December 29,2016

 

Changes to the HOPE Scholarship and the failure of state funding to keep up with enrollment growth have shifted more of the costs of higher education to students, according to a new audit.

 

From fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2015, the average cost for students attending a public college or university in Georgia increased 77 percent, from $8,361 a year to $14,791,

the state Department of Audits and Accounts reported this week.

 

The average cost for students attending a public college or university in Georgia increased 77 percent, from $8,361 a year to $14,791

The HOPE program once covered the full cost of tuition for students who earned at least a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) in high school. But Gov. Nathan Deal steered legislation through the General Assembly in 2011 tightening the eligibility standard for full tuition coverage to a 3.7 GPA, a move driven by the impact the Great Recession was having on state tax revenues.

 

At the same time HOPE coverage was shrinking, state appropriations to the University System of Georgia were not keeping pace with enrollment growth, a trend that has effectively resulted in a 15 percent decrease in funding per student.

To offset that decrease, the system’s Board of Regents raised tuition during the 10 years covered by the audit substantially.

 

The board’s response to the audit noted the system has taken steps to reduce costs, including consolidating universities and requiring a formal review before approval of new academic programs.

 

Despite the increased burden on students, the audit found the cost of attending most Georgia public colleges and universities remains lower than peer institutions in other states.

 

Dave Williams covers Government

 

Hope News

New report shows HOPE scholarship could run out of money in 12 years

New report shows HOPE scholarship could run out of money in 12 years

MACON, Ga. --Georgia lawmakers are now weighing in on the predicted lack of funding for the HOPE scholarship in Georgia.

 

A report released Wednesday by the Committee to Preserve HOPE Scholarships says that the HOPE scholarship program could run out of money by the year 2028. The HOPE scholarship provides students with a 3.0 GPA in Georgia to get the majority of their tuition paid for.

 

The author of the report, Nancy Badertsher, says they "ran a scenario looking at the current funding levels and the current projections of growth on the program."

She says rising higher education prices and the increase of students taking advantage of the program will contribute to the coming deficit.

There are many students that take advantage of the program in Middle Georgia. The committee reports that more than 44,000 students have received the HOPE scholarship in 2014 in Bibb County alone. Badertsher also adds that 44% of the incoming Freshman class at Middle Georgia State University are HOPE scholarship recipients.

 

We caught up with Georgia Senator David Lucas. He says past actions by the Georgia Legislature may have a part to play in the predicted deficit. He said "When the economy went bad we didn't fund the university sytem, what the presidents looked at was that HOPE will pay for everything and just raise the tuition so we broke that up."

 

Lucas says some legislators in the capital want to bring casino gambling to Georgia. He says that could possibly bring in enough money to bridge the HOPE scholarship funding gap. "I think when you bring in money, real, hard cash money it can help to offset." Lucas said.

 

In our interview today Badertsher said

“This raises the issue that we should keep our eye on the ball and make sure this program can be preserved and do whatever is necessary for that.”

She said in the report she didn't explore solutions to the potential funding gap for the HOPE scholarship. But she added that the solution will take many different groups of people working together. “I think the discussion needs to involve the General Assembly which is tasked with overseeing the HOPE scholarship, the governor, but I think all Georgians are stakeholders in this and should be part of the discussion, because again, no program has done more to help the state.” she said.

 

The program was started in 1993. Since then the Committee reports that 1.7 million students in Georgia have benefited from the scholarship.

HOPE Blog

HOPE Benefits Georgia Businesses

HOPE Benefits Georgia Businesses

HOPE Scholarships have been an obvious treasure for several generations of Georgia students.

Since 1993, more than 1.7 million have received tuition assistance worth more than $8 billion.

Often overlooked, however, is how the HOPE program has also been of significant benefit to the state’s businesses by supplying a steady stream of educated workers to the workplace.

 

But continued success filling vital jobs with highly qualified people remains a never-ending challenge. A recent study by the Metro Atlanta Chamber offered further evidence of a “job gap” of too few qualified workers to fill jobs in high demand by employers.

 

Key categories cited in the report were computer/information sciences and healthcare workers, especially registered nurses. In 2015 14,453 computer-related jobs were posted by Georgia employers, but only 1,864 Georgians earned bachelor’s degrees in related fields in the 2013-14 academic year. Similarly, 19,626 jobs were posted for healthcare positions requiring an associate degree, but only 5,018 such degrees were awarded in 2013-14.

 

Since 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal’s High Demand Career Initiative has provided HOPE grants to technical college students enrolled in courses leading to jobs in high-demand fields. Still, the jobs gap persists. Another effort has come from the Metro Chamber’s website –– yourtalentyourfuture.org –– which helps jobseekers make decisions about enrollment in colleges and technical certification programs.

 

Essential to all these efforts to close the gap is the preservation of the HOPE Scholarships, the largest and most effective program of its kind in the country. Without HOPE, thousands would be denied higher education and the chance for attractive careers. The good jobs are out there. HOPE enables today’s students to qualify for them.

Hope News

Closer Look: WABE NPR

Closer Look: WABE NPR

45:32: Researcher and journalist Nancy Badertscher talks about how the data was compiled for her report that claims public demands for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship is overwhelming the actual funding resources

Hope Facts

Tuition Covered by HOPE

Tuition Covered by HOPE

Programs were added that contributed significantly to HOPE’s costs, like the decisions to have HOPE cover all mandatory student fees and provide allowances for student text books.

Both the fee payments and book allowances were eliminated from Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship as of 2011

Read more

About Hope

HOPE Scholarship: The pros

HOPE Scholarship: The pros

The program has surpassed its goals. So why are people complaining?

 

"The HOPE scholarship program was launched two decades ago with three specific goals: increase the number of Georgians with postsecondary education, improve the overall quality of the state’s university system, and stanch the exodus of high-achieving students. "

HOPE has accomplished all three aims—and then some. Over the past two decades, the number of Georgians with college degrees increased from 19 to 28 percent. The state’s big schools, not just Tech and UGA, have become more competitive (see the chart of rising SATs here). And kids who could go anywhere in the country stay here; a decade after HOPE’s debut, more than 40 percent of Georgia high school seniors who scored between 1400 and 1490 on the SAT elected to stay in-state for college—double the rate before the scholarship existed.

 

You can’t argue with the numbers. But I see those stats through an admittedly biased lens: I’ve experienced HOPE’s impact on all three measures—as a state school alum, as a college instructor, and as a parent.

 

I attended Georgia State University in the 1980s, when it was a commuter school. Back then, the average freshman was twenty-seven. When I took Reporting 101 as a nineteen-year-old, we studied Tom Wicker’s New York Times account of the Kennedy assassination. I wasn’t born when JFK was shot; my classmates, on the other hand, all remembered reading that Wicker piece—as adults. My GSU education was serviceable, but my college experience was tough. Struggling to balance work, school, and the stressors of young adulthood, I found nothing in the way of support services. It took six and a half years, but eventually I graduated—with a C average but an extended professional resume.

 

In 2005 I returned to GSU to pursue a master’s degree. Walking to my car after the first night of classes, I passed dozens of teenagers on the steps in front of the General Classroom Building. What are they doing here? There must be something happening over at Philips Arena, I thought, until it dawned on me: They were students waiting to catch a campus shuttle to theirdorms. In the years since I first graduated, the university has transformed from a part-time school for nontraditional students to an urban campus with dorms, cafeterias, frat houses, and even a football team. GSU—now classified as a research university—has attracted stellar faculty, added research labs, and rolled out high-tech classrooms. Its academic standards have been raised dramatically. Part of this change is due to a couple of inspired university presidents, but HOPE played a huge role. “It’s not an overstatement to say that, at Georgia State, the HOPE Scholarship has been transformative,” says Timothy Renick, vice provost. “Our student body has grown larger, more accomplished, and more diverse in part from HOPE’s power to make a college education accessible to new populations of students.”

 

As an adjunct, I teach at both Emory University (number twenty on the U.S. News roster of national universities) and the University of Georgia (awarded the number sixty national and number twenty public spots by U.S. News). While it might rankle my colleagues over in Druid Hills to read this, the students at both schools are equally smart, well read, and ambitious. The local kids in my UGA classes could have attended school anywhere in the country (or over at Emory, I suppose), but they chose UGA because of the opportunities it offers—yes, including the financial boost that HOPE provides.

 

And finally, my family benefits directly from HOPE. My daughter applied to a number of Southeastern universities, and her acceptance packages came back with hefty merit scholarships from private schools that tout their high rankings and downplay their stratospheric price tags. If HOPE hadn’t been a factor and UGA’s academics hadn’t improved as they have over the past twenty years, her choice would have been a no-brainer: Wave goodbye to Georgia and juggle a scholarship and student loans to attend a school with a national reputation. But with HOPE she got a full ride in the Honors Program at UGA and will graduate debt-free. Without the extra burden of work-study or loans, she was able as an underclassman to focus fully on classes, take part in challenging extras like UGA’s undergrad research program, volunteer, and complete internships (all while my husband and I were able to set aside more savings to help her with graduate school). Now a senior, she holds down a challenging job at the UGA Veterinary College, serves as president of a student club, and has raised thousands of dollars for Athens-area charities. I know I’m biased, but she is the kind of young adult Zell Miller had in mind when he talked about HOPE keeping top students in-state.

 

Are there flaws with the HOPE program? Of course. Here’s the main one: While it’s supposed to make college more accessible for everyone, in reality HOPE most benefits middle-class families like mine, the kind who plan to send our kids to college no matter what. Its focus on test scores—in particular the recently added Zell Miller Scholarship requirements—favor whiter, wealthier students, a fact that is readily visible when walking across campus at UGA. (Consider: Seventy-four percent of the undergrads at UGA are white, compared with 40 percent at Emory.) Second, HOPE’s rigid rules mean that one shaky grading period can result in an automatic scholarship loss. This places a particular burden on students who have to work while in college; I for one would never have been able to maintain HOPE as a working undergrad.

 

But I dispute two main complaints: that middle-class recipients least need the help HOPE offers and that HOPE has unfairly made Georgia’s flagship schools—UGA and Tech—inaccessible. With tuition rising at ridiculous rates, middle-class families need help more than anyone. There are grants and scholarships for lower-income families. Truly wealthy families don’t have to worry about tuition. But for those of us who fall somewhere in between—don’t qualify for need-based aid but can’t blithely write tuition checks—HOPE is a godsend. 

 

Yes, HOPE has made it tougher to get into UGA. (Let’s not fool ourselves; it’s always been tough to get into Tech.) When HOPE was launched twenty years ago, UGA had a solid but hardly spectacular reputation. Many parents of current high schoolers, remembering what UGA used to be like, are taken aback when their offspring don’t breeze in as Bulldogs. But rather than fixating on who gets in or doesn’t, everyone—parents, kids, and policy makers—needs to consider how the caliber of all state schools continues to rise. For most undergrads, Georgia College & State University, for instance, is more challenging today than UGA was two decades ago. Georgia State, once a commuter school, now ranks as best in the nation for boosting graduation efforts.

Maybe kids—if not yet their parents—are starting to realize the value of schools other than UGA and Tech. “A lot of our students are finding more colleges in the state that are attractive to them. There are some wonderful schools,” says Anne Carlson, department chair of school counseling at Walton High, which produces more HOPE-eligible graduates than any school in Georgia. “I used to hear, ‘If I don’t go to UGA or Georgia Tech, I’m going out of state.’ I don’t hear that at all anymore.”