HOPE Grants pay much of technical school tuition
Georgia’s Technical College System, including Quick Start and its certificate programs, focused on training for job skills, is both unique and effective and is given the credit many times for the success of locating new industries in the state. The HOPE Grant has been instrumental in that success.
Although many states have imitated Georgia’s HOPE scholarship program, there are many ways in which Georgia remains unique. Specifically, the HOPE Grant program, which is reserved for technical education, operates as an integral part of the HOPE program and serves as a valuable economic development tool for the state.
Available to students pursuing certificate and diploma programs within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), HOPE Grant awards are offered on a per-credit hour basis at all TCSG schools. While recipients must maintain a 2.0 GPA at specific checkpoints during their postsecondary career, recipients are not required to have met a minimum GPA threshold in high school. The HOPE Grant serves numerous types of students who may otherwise be ineligible for the HOPE scholarship and allows non-traditional students to gain needed skill sets in an ever-changing economy.
While the cost of higher education may seem to outpace students’ ability to pay, TCSG has created a favorable and affordable environment for postsecondary technical education. Tuition cost per credit hour remains at $85 for all TCSG institutions, and the HOPE Grant covers $62.57 per credit hour or approximately 74 percent of tuition cost. A comparison to other states’ technical education programs reflects Georgia’s strong commitment that has kept the cost of technical education lower than most any other state.
A look at other states’ technical college programs
South Carolina offers the Lottery Tuition Assistance program to students enrolled in certificate, diploma, and degree programs in the South Carolina Technical College System. Established in 2001, the Lottery Tuition Assistance (LTA) Program provides eligible South Carolina residents a supplemental award to offset the cost of technical education.
After all other financial resources have been exhausted (including federal Pell grants), a student may receive funding for part-time or full-time enrollment. In the 2012-13 school year, part-time students were eligible for an award of $95 per credit hour when enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours. Full-time enrolled students are eligible for a maximum of $1,140 per semester.
While on the surface, this award amount may seem comparable to Georgia’s HOPE Grant, the cost of tuition at South Carolina technical schools ranges from $150 to $167 per credit hour for in-state residents (almost double the cost of TCSG’s per credit hour cost). At a rate of $150 per credit hour, the LTA program covers approximately 63 percent of tuition cost.
The Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant, part of the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program, is available to Tennessee residents who enroll in one of the 27 colleges of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology system. Through this grant program, students are eligible for a maximum award of $2,000 for full-time enrolled recipients and pro-rated award amounts for part-time enrollment. Spread across three semesters, the maximum award amount per semester averages to $667 for a full-time enrolled student.
With the total award amount averaging a little less than both Georgia and South Carolina and at an approximate cost of $183 per credit hour, the Wilder-Naifeh grant covers only 24 percent of tuition costs for a full-time enrolled student.
Florida’s Vocational Scholars Program
Florida’s program is aimed at District Training Centers where certificates may be earned, but its high academic requirements raises questions as to its applicability in helping students seeking job training. The qualification standards, 3.0 GPA for high school core subjects and 3.5 GPA on vocational courses, set a high bar to receive the “Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Scholarship.” Additionally, GED students, unlike in Georgia, are not eligible for the scholarship.
HOPE Grant focusing on strategic occupations
During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly funded the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant (SIWDG) program as a supplement to HOPE Grant recipients. The SIWDG identifies three critical career areas including commercial truck driving, early childhood care and education, and practical nursing. HOPE Grant recipients pursuing studies in these specified fields are eligible for a supplemental fixed amount award per term.
When enrolled in nine or more credit hours, practical nursing and childhood education students may receive an additional $500 award per term.
In an attempt to counteract additional specialty program fees, commercial truck driving students are eligible for a one-time $1,000 supplemental award. When combined with the HOPE Grant, these supplements cover the majority of tuition for full-time enrolled students.
This relatively new grant program, funded by $6 million in lottery funds, will lessen the cost burden for students pursuing job training education as well as provide growing industries in Georgia with a trained workforce.
For additional information on HOPE Grant and SIWDG requirements, visit GSFC’s Web site at www.gacollege411.org.
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