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167
By Don Campbell
Milledgeville, Georgia
A
drienne Paquin, a 20-year-old junior at Georgia
College & State University here, hadn’t even heard of this
institution until about three years ago. Paquin, a physical
education major, was attending high school in the Atlanta
suburb of Douglasville, 100 miles away, and had her eye on
Lee University in Tennessee, where her sister had spent her
freshman year.
Then financial reality set in. Adrienne could borrow
money to attend Lee, or she could take advantage of Georgia’s
HOPE scholarship, which would pay her tuition, mandatory
fees and a book allowance if she went to college in Georgia.
It was a no-brainer. “I decided to stay in the state;
otherwise I’d have had to take out loans of about $40,000,”
she said during a recent interview while sitting in a rocking
chair between the stately white columns of GC&SU’s
administration building.
The decision was even easier because Adrienne, who
describes herself as “paranoid about grades,” has never let her
grade point average fall below 3.5. And because of the HOPE
(Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) scholarship, she
has not had to work, though she has taken out a loan to pay
for her apartment.
Adrienne also had the experience of seeing her older sister,
Michelle, take on college loans of $10,000 during one year at
Lee University before she transferred to the State University of
West Georgia.
“She matured,” is the way Brenda Paquin, mother of the
two sisters, describes Michelle’s decision to come back to
Georgia after a year in Tennessee. The maturation process,
Mrs. Paquin adds, was helped along by the sight of mounting
college loans. Now both of her daughters have HOPE
scholarships.
“We told them, as long as they kept their grades up, they
wouldn’t have to work,” saidMrs. Paquin. “Without HOPE,
they’d have had to work, and their grades would have suffered.
So it’s made our life easier.”
Ten years after Georgia launched the HOPE scholarships,
the Paquin sisters are billboards for the success of the nation’s
most ambitious merit-based state college-aid program. But
HOPE is becoming a victim of its own success. It is now
facing its own version of financial reality as college tuition
in Georgia spirals upward, and state support for higher
education shrinks.
The brainchild of former Governor and nowU.S. Senator
Zell Miller, HOPE was designed to keep Georgia’s brightest
college-bound students in the state and give them an incentive
to keep their grades up. It is a simple carrot-and-stick
approach.
With funding from a state lottery approved in 1992, HOPE
Summer 2003
HOPE Springs Eternal
Georgia’s scholarship program, a model for the nation, experiences financial pains
scholarships were phased in to cover tuition, mandatory
fees and a book allowance at all public colleges and technical
schools and to provide scholarships and grants to Georgia
residents attending private colleges in the state. To qualify,
entering students must have earned a B average in core
curriculum courses in high school, and they must maintain
a B average in college to keep the
scholarship.
The programquickly made Georgia
the nation’s most generous provider
of merit-based aid, and became the
model for 14 other states which
have adopted some variation. From
September 1993 until May of 2003,
HOPE awarded more than $1.9 billion
in scholarships to more than 693,000
students. More than 70 percent of
Georgia’s high school graduates now
qualify for HOPE, up from about 50
percent when the program began.
Although the overall increase in college enrollment in
Georgia was small during HOPE’s first five years, individual
colleges more recently have reported remarkable growth both
in enrollment and in the number of students benefiting from
HOPE.
At Kennesaw State University, for example, freshman
enrollment shot up 66 percent between the fall of 1998 and
the fall of 2002, and the number of freshmen qualifying
Sisters Adrienne (left) and Michelle Paquin, shown with their mother Brenda, are
attending Georgia public universities on HOPE scholarships.
The HOPE scholarship
was designed to keep
Georgia’s brightest
college-bound students
in the state and give
them an incentive to
keep their grades up.
Photos by Robin Nelson, Black Star, for CrossTalk