Study shows racial gap in award of HOPE scholarships

[private]White students from middle- and upper-income families are more likely to get HOPE or Zell Miller Scholarships than non-white students from low-income families, a new study shows.

“Students from historically marginalized groups are underrepresented among scholarship recipients,” said the report released Thursday by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI).

“Within the university system, only about 20 percent of black students and 36 percent of Hispanic students get either the HOPE or Zell Miller scholarships, versus 46 percent of Asian American and 45 percent of white students,” GBPI said.

“White students make up 64 percent of HOPE Scholars and 78 percent of Zell Miller Scholars, while they account for only 54 percent of undergraduate enrollment,” the report said.

HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships are both funded through proceeds from the Georgia Lottery. High school graduates must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 to qualify for a HOPE Scholarship, which does not cover full tuition. A Zell Miller Scholarship covers full tuition but requires a grade point average of 3.7 and an SAT score of 1200 or an ACT score of 26.

“The merit-based scholarships are disproportionately out of reach for students of modest means,” the GBPI report said. “Only 30 percent of low-income students in the university system get either the HOPE or Zell Miller scholarships, compared to 42 percent of middle- and upper-income students.”

The GBPI report, which was written by education policy analyst Claire Suggs, says the University System and the Technical College System have both been losing thousands of students who might otherwise get a degree or certificate but can’t afford the costs of staying in school.

“In fall 2014, 6,500 students were dropped by the university system for nonpayment of tuition and fees,” the study said.  “In fall 2015, about 6,500 more students were dropped by the system because they could not afford to pay for classes.”

“Total enrollment in the state’s technical colleges declined each year since 2010,” the report said. “It is now lower than in 2008. An improving economy with more job options is a likely factor but so is the declining value of the HOPE Grant and Scholarship awards.”

The GBPI study recommends that the Legislature establish a needs-based financial assistance program that would help more low-income students pay their college costs.

“Even if the graduation rate rose by only five percentage points, Georgia’s colleges and universities would produce more than 2,600 additional graduates,” the report said.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: GBPI , HOPE scholarships , needs-based assistance