Two years after starting college, recipients of Georgia's HOPE scholarship program are more likely to still be enrolled in college, have higher grade point averages (GPA), and have earned more credit hours than their counterparts. The Council for School Performance, housed in the Applied Research Center in the School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, conducted the first assessment of the impact of the HOPE scholarship on college performance. After following the 1994-95 HOPE recipients into their third year of college, the results show a positive impact of the program on all three outcomes included in the study.
HOPE provides Georgia high school graduates who earn an overall high school GPA of 3.0 or higher with free tuition, fees, and a book allowance at public colleges and universities. Only HOPE scholars with a high school GPA between 3.0 and 3.16 were selected for this evaluation. This allowed researchers to isolate the effect of the HOPE scholarship on the recipients by selecting a comparison group with similar characteristics. The comparison group was matched by their core high school GPA (includes academic courses only) and institution type. The students in the comparison group did not receive the HOPE scholarship because they did not apply or did not meet all of the HOPE eligibility requirements.
Two questions were analyzed in this evaluation: (1) Does HOPE motivate higher levels of performance and higher rates of persistence among students in college? (2) Does HOPE allow students greater choice in selecting institutions of higher education? Other factors such as institution type, sex, race, and high school preparation were included in this analysis because they also affect college performance. This study compares students with similar backgrounds to isolate the impact of HOPE on college performance. In future studies, we will examine another potential impact of HOPE, its effect on high school performance.