How the HOPE Scholarship Works

Maintaining a HOPE Scholarship

Once awarded a HOPE Scholarship, you'll continue to receive the aid each year -- there's no need to reapply. But in order to maintain a HOPE Scholarship, you'll have to keep up a 3.0 grade point average in college. It's also important to make "satisfactory academic progress," which translates to continuous enrollment aimed at earning a degree. As far as HOPE is concerned, a break of two or more semesters or quarters means you're not making satisfactory progress.

HOPE Scholarship eligibility lasts until you receive a bachelor's degree -- HOPE Scholarships do not apply to graduate study. Eligibility also ends after students take 127 credit hours -- and all credit hours attempted count, even if student drops the course part way through. However, exceptions are made for students pursuing some five-year degree programs, such as those for landscape architecture and pharmacy. In those cases, the HOPE Scholarship can continue until graduation or until 150 credit hours have been attempted.

Hanging on to your HOPE money also means passing a series of checkpoints with a satisfactory average. If you fail to maintain that 3.0 GPA until the end of the semester in which you attempt your 30th credit hour, you become ineligible. The same checks occur at the end of the semesters in which you attempt your 60th and 90th credit hours. Additionally, all HOPE Scholarship recipients must have a cumulative 3.0 GPA at the end of each spring term [source: GAcollege411].

Students who lose their HOPE Scholarships for not maintaining a 3.0 average can reapply if their GPA has returned to that level after the 30th, 60th or 90th credit hour attempted. However, if your cumulative average is still under 3.0 after you've attempted your 90th hour, you'll be permanently ineligible for the HOPE program.

One of the early criticisms of the HOPE program was that students who were eligible for need-based Pell Grants had their HOPE Scholarships cut by the amount of the Pell Grant. But since 2000, students have been able to use the HOPE money to pay for tuition, fees and books, and apply the need-based Pell money to other educational expenses like room and board [sources: Rubenstein, Scafidi].

Until 2009, the HOPE program received adequate funding from the state lottery to fund scholarships for all eligible students. But a fall-off in lottery proceeds has caused the state to consider cutbacks. While no students have lost their scholarships, future reduction in payments for fees and textbooks are possible [source: Foskett].

HOPE Scholarships are not the only financial aid Georgia offers to students. Read on to the next section to find out about additional opportunities.