The HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships have made college more accessible and affordable for more than a million college students since Georgia voters approved the creation of the lottery-funded scholarships and grants more than 25 years ago. A new report from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization in Atlanta, finds that although HOPE has enticed many students to stay in-state for college and promoted college preparation in high school, the scholarship displays patterns that reflect the state’s racial, ethnic, income and geographic inequalities.
The merit-based awards are more likely to go White and Asian students and students from high-income families. Blacks are severely unrepresented in the Zell Miller Scholarship program which provides full tuition to qualified students. To be eligible, students must have a 3.7 high school GPA in core courses, a 3.3 cumulative college GPA, four rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment and a 1200 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT.
These requirements put Black students at a severe disadvantage. As a result, Black students who make up 29 percent of the undergraduate college students in Georga, are only 6 percent of all students who receive Zell Miller Scholarships.
More than 90 percent of students with family income greater than $120,000 were receiving either the HOPE Scholarship or Zell Miller Scholarship. More than 30 percent of students with family income higher than $120,000 received the Zell Miller Scholarship for at least one semester during a five-year period, compared to less than 10 percent of students with family income less than $30,000. The median income of Georgia’s White households is about $68,000, compared to $45,000 for Black households.
HOPE is now the largest state-funded scholarship in the country that ignores financial need. Georgia is one of two states without broad need-based scholarships. The state passed legislation to grant the Georgia Student Finance Commission the authority to create need-based scholarships in 2018, though they have not been funded.