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Twenty years of HOPE
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Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship has been the model as states from around the country have adopted programs to help their students acquire higher education and to meet other educational goals as well. Those that are linked to lotteries have faced or are facing the same constrictions of growing costs versus a slower-growing or stable lottery as Georgia’s highly successful lottery has faced.

This column is trying to assess HOPE at 20 years old versus programs in other states which seem to be modeled on Georgia’s plan. Last week we reviewed the present HOPE Scholarship in Georgia and looked at Tennessee’s programs and Kentucky’s, which are lottery-funded.

This week, we look at plans for Florida and South Carolina.

Florida: Bright Futures
Florida’s two primary lottery funded scholarships are the Florida Academic Scholarship (FAS) and the Florida Medallion Scholarship (FMS). Similar to the differences between Georgia’s HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships, Florida’s scholarships differ by award amounts and qualifications. In 2014, Florida students with a 3.5 high school GPA, a 29 ACT (1290 SAT), and 100 hours of community service will be eligible for the Florida Academic Scholarship.

In 2014, recipients of FAS receive $103 per semester hour at four-year institutions, $1,545 for a 15-hour semester and $945 at a two-year, per semester. At UGA, HOPE covers $3,277.50 for one 15-hour semester.

To keep the scholarship, Florida students must annually maintain a 3.0 GPA.

The Florida Medallion Scholarships will be for students with a qualifying 3.0 high school GPA, a 26 ACT (1170 SAT), and at least 75 hours of community service. Medallion Scholars receive $77 per semester hour at four-year institutions or $1,155 for a 15-hour semester and must maintain a 2.75 annual college GPA. Recipients are eligible regardless of whether they attend a private or public postsecondary institution.

Like Georgia, Florida also made changes to their lottery scholarships during the 2011 session. Florida decided to steadily raise their qualifying test scores and have them level off for the 2013-14 school year, where students will have to attain higher ACT or SAT scores to qualify for the scholarships.

South Carolina: Palmetto Fellows and HOPE Scholarship
South Carolina offers the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship and the HOPE Scholarship. Similar to Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship, South Carolina’s HOPE program has an academic requirement of a 3.0 high school GPA. While South Carolina’s HOPE award amount does offer a book allowance of $300 for books, it maintains a flat $2,800 award amount applicable to one academic year during a recipient’s postsecondary career.  This, of course, is only $1,400 per semester for a two-semester year or $933 for a three-semester year. Compare to UGA at $3,277.50 per semester.  Meanwhile, the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship offers scholarships that span four years of college, but maintain higher requirements for applicants.

Requirements include not only the 3.0 high school GPA, but also a 27 ACT and a ranking in the top 6 percent of the graduating high school class. Fellows can also qualify with a 4.0 GPA in conjunction with a 32 ACT.

Palmetto Fellows receive $6,700 for their first year of college and $7,500 for the remaining three years. But a year has to be divided by semester, so the value is either $3,350 for two semesters or $2,233 for three semesters.

In order to keep the scholarship for multiple years, Fellows must maintain at least a 3.0 college GPA and annually earn at least 30 non-remedial hours.

In 2007, South Carolina added another element to the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship in an attempt to increase the number of students who major in math and science. For eligibility, Palmetto Fellows must declare a major in an approved math or science program and complete at least 14 credit hours in math and science and receive an additional $2,500 yearly.

Other Georgia programs
The Georgia Student Finance Commission also offers a low interest loan program called the Student Access Loan Program. This program offers low interest rates and repayment incentives to families who experience a gap in meeting their educational costs. Interest rates range from 1 percent to 8 percent with the lowest rate reserved for students who graduate within the designated time frame for their program of study.

So far, $20 million has been appropriated yearly for loan disbursement to financially needy students. Through a random lottery system, GSFC selects 6,000 applications per fiscal year to undergo a verification process. Determination of financial need and loan award amounts vary by individual circumstance and are credited to the student’s account at his/her respective institution. Although relatively new, this program is growing in popularity and for FY2014, GSFC has already received over 5,000 applications.

Next: More comparisons to Georgia’s Lottery.

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