HOPE Scholarship Changes
In studying HB 798, we should consider several issues. 1. What is an eligible school? 2. Why do some students receive HOPE before they complete college courses and others get reimbursed with HOPE scholarship money after they have paid for and completed coursework? 3. What is the difference between a numerical score and a percentile as a requirement for HOPE? 4. Is a score on the SAT or ACT an effective measure of student achievement?
An eligible school, public or private, is accredited through state sanctioned accreditation agencies. Graduates from eligible schools are able to receive the HOPE scholarship as they complete college courses. Other students, such as those in home study, are currently only eligible to begin receiving the HOPE scholarship retroactively after 30 semester hours, which is usually the equivalent of one year of college. After the first year, all students meeting the requirements may receive the scholarship as they attend.
The Zell Miller level of the HOPE scholarship added the 1,200 SAT score requirement and 3.7 GPA to receive the full scholarship several years ago. In the proposed legislation, HB 798, the set score is changed to a percentile on either the SAT or the ACT (80% for students from eligible schools, 93% for home study or graduates of ineligible schools). For the regular HOPE scholarship, the current requirement is 80% on the ACT or SAT for students with a GED, graduates of a home study program, or graduates from an ineligible high school. HB 789 would lower that percentile to 75%. Graduates from eligible schools are not subject to a percentile for the basic HOPE (not Zell) scholarship. When changing from a published score to a percentile, the student scholarships will be based on a “moving target”. It is a comparison measure.
SAT scores declined both statewide and nationwide last year. Many speculate that this decline is the result of being in the 4th year of Common Core implementation. Both the SAT and the ACT are being revised to reflect the additional workforce development aspects of government education called “College and Career Readiness.” When these tests are revised, we will not be able compare scores over the years because the measures will be different. As legislators seek ways to fairly award scholarship money, they should make sure that the measures they are using are valid and reliable. David Coleman, who led the nation into Common Core, is head of the College Board, in charge of revising the SAT.
Legislators should carefully consider linking taxpayer dollars with tests that are controlled by outside companies beyond the reach and jurisdiction of parents, teachers, and elected officials.