In 1997, President Clinton signed into law a federal Hope Credit that took its name from Georgia's scholarship program, but was a different form of financial aid. The federal program was a tax credit intended to help all students, and it didn't require a minimum GPA. In 2009, this program was modified so it could be made available to a wider range of people and was renamed the American Opportunity Tax Credit. It gives students' families a tax credit of up to $2,500, as long as their modified adjusted gross incomes aren't above $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples) [source: IRS].
After seeing the success of the Georgia HOPE Scholarship, other states began to offer similar awards. Some, like Georgia's, are financed by state-run lotteries. Most are merit-based and require a minimum GPA. Here are just a few examples:
- Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. Like Georgia HOPE Scholarships, these awards are funded by the state lottery. The Florida Academic Scholars Award covers full tuition at a state college, or aid at a private university equal to the tuition at a comparable public institution. Qualifications are relatively tough: a 3.5 GPA in high school and 75 hours of approved community service. The Florida Merit Scholars Award requires a 3.0 GPA, but covers only 75 percent of tuition. The Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award is similar to the Florida Merit Scholars award, but is for vocational students [source: FDE].
- Tennessee HOPE Scholarships: The state provides up to $4,000 a year for students attending a public or private in-state college. Students must have a 3.0 GPA, a score of 21 on the ACT or a combined score of 980 on the SAT [source: TSAC].
- New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship:This program is open to all New Mexico high school graduates attending an eligible public college in the state. To qualify, a student must attain a 2.5 GPA in his or her first semester in college. The scholarship covers tuition only and is available for eight semesters [source: NMHED].
- West Virginia PROMISE awards:A merit scholarship like the Georgia plan, PROMISE requires a 3.0 GPA in high school and certain minimum ACT or SAT test scores. This scholarship provides tuition and mandatory fees or $4,750 a year (whichever is less) at a West Virginia public or private college. It is renewable for eight semesters [source: WVHEPC].
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. A number of other U.S. states -- including Kentucky, Louisiana and South Carolina -- offer similar scholarships to local high school graduates who attend in-state colleges. However, not all states that adopted HOPE-type scholarships have continued their programs. Maryland, for example, cancelled its HOPE Scholarship in 2004 and tough economic times prompted Michigan to drop its PROMISE Scholarship program in October 2009.
As the cost of tuition -- even at public schools -- has risen significantly in recent decades, students are scouring every possible source of aid to pay for their educations. HOPE Scholarships are an important resource in states where they are available, and one you will not want to overlook if you're looking forward to college.
Keep reading for more information about the HOPE Scholarship and other sources of financial aid.