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Georgia’s HOPE Program Provides Students with Helpful College Funds

Hope is something everyone has in some fashion:  hope for a better future, hope for finding a better job, hope for their children to live great lives, hope to be able to receive an education.

Georgia wants to provide its residents with the hope of being able to receive an education with the state’s HOPE Program.

HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally and it’s a program designed to help Georgia high school graduates afford to attend an in-state public, private or technical postsecondary school.

The financial aid program was created by the state’s governor at the time, Zell Miller, and was launched in 1993 with the goal of creating a better-educated Georgia workforce and to help make a good investment in Georgia’s economic future.

The program is funded by the Georgia Lottery for Education and as of November 2018, it has helped over 1.8 million Georgia students afford to attend in-state colleges with over $20 billion raised in award money.

General Requirements

The HOPE Program is still going strong and features six different sub-programs with their own eligibility requirements under the HOPE Program umbrella. To qualify for any HOPE program though, a student must meet this general eligibility criteria:

  1. Meet HOPE’s U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizen requirements.
  2. Be a legal resident of Georgia.
  3. Meet school enrollment requirements.
  4. Be in compliance with Selective Service Registration requirements.
  5. Meet academic achievement standards.
  6. Be in good standing on all student loans or other financial aid programs.
  7. Be in compliance with the Georgia Drug-Free Postsecondary Education Act of 1990.
  8. Not have previously exceeded the maximum award limits for any Georgia financial aid program.
  9. Must be enrolled in an eligible Georgia postsecondary school.

For all HOPE programs, students must also complete and submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Georgia Student Finance Application (GSFAPPS); the GSFAPPS can be completed online or via physical paper forms. FAFSA must also be completed annually whereas the GSFAPPS is good for 10 years after a student submits the form.

The last day to apply for any of the HOPE programs is the final day of a school’s term or a student’s withdrawal date (whichever one happens first). Students are urged to apply as soon as possible though to ensure they receive a sufficient amount of funding once they’re deemed eligible. Plus, the sooner a student applies, the faster funds can be disbursed to their school and credited their account.

All the HOPE program awards are merit-based as well. Financial need is usually not a determining factor in figuring out a student’s award amount.

The Six Different HOPE Financial Aid Programs

The six different HOPE programs cover a wide range of academic performances and offer up varying amounts of financial aid.

Zell Miller Scholarship

The Zell Miller Scholarship is the most lucrative award out of the six HOPE programs and is geared towards students who receive A-grades.

To be eligible to receive the Zell Miller Scholarship, Georgia students must complete and receive four full credits from the list of Academic Rigor Requirements in addition to:

  • Being named valedictorian or salutatorian of the student’s high school graduating class OR
  • Graduating high school with a minimum 3.70 HOPE GPA in core curriculum classes AND
  • Receiving a minimum SAT score of 1200 on the math and reading sections OR a minimum composite ACT score of 26 in a single national test administration.

For clarification, the Academic Rigor Requirements include:

  • Advanced math
  • Advanced science
  • Foreign language
  • Advanced Placement (AP) courses in core subjects
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) courses in core subjects
  • Degree-level Dual Credit Enrollment courses in core subjects
    • Dual Enrollment classes must be taken at an in-state eligible postsecondary institution.

Georgia also considers the subjects of core curriculum classes to be in:

  • English
  • Math
  • Science
  • Foreign language
  • Social science

To submit test scores for Zell Miller Scholarship consideration, a student needs to upload a copy of their College-Board SAT score report to the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC) website or request ACT to electronically send their ACT score report to GSFC.

A student will receive funding for their full-standard tuition for up to 15 credit hours as a full-time or part-time student if they qualify and attend an eligible, in-state public schools, according to the GSFC.

A student who qualifies and attends an eligible, private Georgia college, university or technical school will receive a set amount of funding for up to 12 credit hours based on if they’re a full-time or part-time student.

As long as you maintain eligibility for the Zell Miller Scholarship, a student is allowed to receive funding for ten years after their high school graduation date. In order to maintain eligibility to receive funding throughout college, a student must:

  • Maintain a minimum 3.30 cumulative GPA.
  • Not exceed 127 semester credit hours earned (or 190 quarter credit hours) in college courses.

If a student becomes ineligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship due to their GPA, they can still be eligible for the HOPE scholarship; a student can restore their Zell Miller Scholarship GPA eligibility only once.

Zell Miller Grant

The Zell Miller Grant is a different type of award than the Zell Miller Scholarship and has different eligibility requirements. Georgia residents must be pursuing a certificate or diploma at a Georgia technical school or Georgia university system institution. In fact, the amount of eligible schools on the list for students to attend and receive the award is significantly less than the amount of eligible schools for the scholarship award.

The main eligibility requirements for the Zell Miller Grant are:

  • Maintain a minimum 3.50 cumulative GPA in college.
    • There is no specific GPA that needs to be earned in high school to be eligible.
  • Not exceed 63 semester credit hours earned (or 95 quarter credit hours) in college.

A student will not receive the award up front for their first term (semester or quarter) of their postsecondary career. If a student has achieved a 3.50 GPA after their first term, they’ll receive funding retroactively for the term. The funding a student receives from the Zell Miller Grant goes towards full-standard tuition assistance; it’s also not required to be a full-time student to earn this award.

HOPE Scholarship

The HOPE Scholarship provides tuition assistance to Georgia residents who are pursuing an undergraduate degree at an in-state HOPE-eligible postsecondary school. The scholarship award varies, but can range anywhere from $900 to just over $3,000 per year .

There are multiple ways to become eligible for the HOPE Scholarship out of high school; the most common two methods are:

  • Graduate from a HOPE-eligible high school with a minimum 3.00 HOPE GPA in core curriculum courses.
    • English, math, science, foreign language and social science
  • Complete and receive four full credits from the list of Academic Rigor Requirements.
    • Advanced math, advanced science, foreign language, AP classes in core subjects, IB classes in core subjects, degree-level Dual Credit Enrollment classes in core subjects
  • OR graduate from an ineligible high school, complete a Georgia home study program or earn a GED and score in the national composite 75th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT prior to graduating or completing the latter two programs.

To learn more on the other initial ways to become eligible for the HOPE Scholarship, check out the additional details on GA Futures.

A HOPE Scholarship award amount also varies based on the type of school a student attends. A student who attends a public Georgia college, university or technical school will receive funding for a portion of their standard tuition for up to 15 credit hours, whether they’re a full-time or part-time student. A student who attends a private Georgia college, university or technical school will receive a set amount of funding for up to 12 credit hours based on if they’re a full-time or part-time student.

To maintain eligibility for continued HOPE Scholarship funding, a student must:

  • Maintain a minimum 3.00 GPA, which will be evaluated the end the of every spring term.
  • Continue to be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at an eligible, in-state public or private postsecondary school or a public Georgia technical college.
    • A private school student must be enrolled in at least six credit hours to continue to receive funding.
  • Not exceed 127 semester credit hours earned (or 190 quarter credit hours) in college courses.
  • Not be in default of or owe a refund to any federal or Georgia student loan, grant or scholarship.

If a student’s GPA drops below the 3.00 requirement, the student has one opportunity to restore their HOPE Scholarship eligibility, otherwise they lose it.

Students can use HOPE Scholarship funds for up to 10 years as long as they remain eligible. The funds can also transfer to a different college if the student decides to switch schools as long as their new school is HOPE-eligible.

HOPE Grant

The HOPE Grant is also a completely different award than the HOPE Scholarship and is open to Georgia residents who are working towards a certificate or diploma at an eligible, in-state postsecondary institution; this is also a much shorter list of eligible schools than the HOPE Scholarship.

The main eligibility requirements for the HOPE Grant are:

  • Maintain a minimum 2.00 GPA in college.
    • There is no specific GPA that needs to be earned in high school to be eligible.
  • Not exceed 127 semester credit hours earned (or 190 quarter credit hours) in college courses.
  • Not have previously earned a bachelor’s degree from any postsecondary institution.

The funding for the HOPE Grant will go towards covering a portion of a student’s tuition while the amount varies based on the type of postsecondary school a student attends. To receive funding, it’s not required to be a full-time student either.

HOPE GED Grant

The HOPE GED Grant is for students who have earned a GED diploma awarded by the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and wish to continue to their college education.

To be eligible for the one-time grant of $500 for tuition, books, and other educational costs, a student must:

  • Not have been convicted for committing felony offenses involving marijuana, controlled substances or dangerous drugs, along with complying with other regulations from the Georgia Drug-Free Postsecondary Education Act of 1990.
  • Not be in default or owe a refund on any student financial aid program.
  • Be enrolled in at a HOPE Program-eligible postsecondary institution.

It’s also important to note the recipient of a HOPE GED Grant must use their award within 24 months of the date of receiving their GED; full-time enrollment is also not necessary to become a recipient.

In addition, if a student maintains a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA after attempting their first 30 semester credit hours (or 45 quarter credit hours) of study, the student can become HOPE Scholarship eligible.

HOPE Career Grant

The HOPE Career Grant is designed to help HOPE Grant-qualified students who enroll in select majors specifically aligned with industries in which there are more jobs available than there are skilled workers to fill them in Georgia. The grant used to be called the Strategic Industries Workface Development Grant for reference.

The industries that are identified as needing the most skilled workers are mostly in the trades. These industries include automotive, aviation, construction, computer programming, early childhood care and education, health science, logistics, industrial maintenance, nursing, manufacturing, welding and many more.

To receive the HOPE Career Grant, a student must:

  • Not have exceeded the maximum award limits for any HOPE or Zell Miller programs.
  • Must be eligible for, and receiving, HOPE or Zell Miller Grant funding.
  • Must be enrolled in an approved program of study at an eligible school.

If a student is chosen as a recipient, their award will be a fixed amount each term (semester or quarter) based on the student’s program of study and the number of credit hours in which they’re enrolled:

  • 1-2 credit hours yields funds of $125.
  • 3-8 credit hours yields funds of $250.
  • 9+ credit hours yields funds of $500.

Students enrolled in truck driving courses will receive additional funds which are designated by enrolled credit hours.

It’s important to keep hope alive in any journey, but especially in an educational journey. Many students can make the most of their postsecondary education opportunity thanks to helpful funds the HOPE Program provides to Georgia residents in order to make college affordable for as many citizens as possible.