Thursday, December 9, 2010

HOPE that politicians do their job

A recent opinion piece in the AJC suggested that ACT/SAT scores be added to the criteria for HOPE scholarships in GA. Arguments were made to address a need to recognize merit, limit the impact of grade inflation, and for the state to be fiscally responsible with this scholarship program.

In tough economic times, we may have to find ways to stretch our dollars, but adding SAT/ACT requirements to the HOPE program is not the way to do it. Beyond the case that the Fairtest folks would make against using the SAT, I would add that K-12 grade competitiveness is localized. You compete with students in your classes and school for grades. The rigor in your course selection is limited  to your school, not your county or state. So class rank is the more tangible quantitative value for academic performance.

The responsible focus of providing HOPE is to provide within our means to those that are most deserving within the pool. That does not mean to only promote opportunity for the poor or rich, so I'll leave it to others to make this a class warfare fight.

Let's focus HOPE scholarships on the top percentage of a class based on what we can afford as a state. The people that manage the HOPE finances can make an annual estimate that identifies there will be HOPE scholarships for the top X% of students in the next school year. At every high school, the top X% of graduating seniors will get the merit based scholarships.

For example, if there were 100,000 HS seniors, and estimated HOPE scholarship per student costs were $7,000, it would cost $700,000,000 (= 100,000 x $7000) to give them all scholarships. If the HOPE budget for the new class was $105,000,000, then you could provide HOPE to the top 15%  (= 105,000,000/7000,000,000) of the senior class.

No more worries about grade inflation within one school giving it extra HOPE scholars. No more worries about how the student in Dougherty County compares with the student in Rockdale. The number of scholarships is linked to being in the top X% of your class. Students are encouraged to keep working because the cut off level can vary each year due to the financial state of the program. Not necassarily popular, but a reasonable way for all to share the fiscal load.

Now if we can only get beyond the politics...