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My HOPE ideas are better than theirs

Posted: March 3, 2013 - 1:05am

Did you ever have a great idea, but are frustrated that other people’s less-worthy ideas get greater attention?

Yeah, it happens to me all the time, too. In this case, it’s happened with the HOPE Scholarship. As I mentioned a couple of years ago, I’ve got a great idea for improving the program and saving it money. Yet the ideas we’re instead seeing advanced are those that will only cost more money.

The other ideas aren’t bad; it’s just that my idea is better. Don’t take my word for it – you be the judge.

The first plan, backed by Gov. Nathan Deal, would lower the required grade-point average for HOPE eligibility for technical-school students to 2.0. That’s a good move; tech students are there to learn welding or plumbing or other skilled trades, and aren’t necessarily going to rack up high grades in English and history.

But it will cost the lottery more money.

Then, this past week, a new piece of legislation was proposed to make it easier to apply for the HOPE scholarship. That’s not a bad idea, either. If you’ve filled out the federal forms that determine financial aide eligibility – the dreaded FAFSA – then you know it’s needlessly complicated.

Any legislation that would make the process easier for Average Joe is good – but it’s also going to mean more Average Joes getting HOPE scholarships, which will cost the lottery more money.

So, what’s my idea?

It’s like this. Currently, one of the bigger problems with HOPE is the number of students who get it, go to college for a semester or two until their grades fall off, lose HOPE and then quit. That’s a tremendous investment in the education of someone who fails to take advantage of the opportunity.

Rather than waste those millions, here’s what should happen: If any student loses HOPE and drops out, the scholarship converts to a loan that the ex-student must repay. If the student loses HOPE and stays in school, the scholarship remains a grant with no payback due.

Of course, students who keep their grades high enough to maintain the HOPE scholarship and stay in school continue to treat it as a grant.

Here are the advantages, as I see them: Those students who decide to go to college just because HOPE money is available, with no intention of finishing, are clogging up the system. If they know they’ll have to pay the money back if they don’t complete their education, they’ll be more motivated to finish – or not to waste everyone’s time and your money in a state-supported school by attending in the first place.

With any lost HOPE getting repaid, lottery funds would be recouped – perhaps making more of it available for those lower-grade HOPE scholarships for tech students, and for those who can’t figure out how to fill out the proper forms.

Of course, if you can’t fill out those forms, perhaps you might not want to try college in the first place.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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