I spoke with Charles Blakewood about his opinion on the currently dwindling Hope Scholarship that Georgia offers. Mr. Blakewood teaches both Speech and English as RHHS. It was interesting to listen to a man as enthusiastic and strong willed as Mr. Blackwood talk about something that’s so relevant to both myself and my peers.
Q: In your opinion, what is Hope’s situation?
A: I’ve done some research into Hope, probably because a year or two ago Georgia legislatures were saying that Hope was about to be under funded. So the Georgia house raised the qualification GPA to get and maintain Hope. So that they wouldn’t be giving away as much money as they had and they could ‘keep hope alive’, as Jesse Jackson was fond of saying. I don’t think that Hope is under funded or in any danger of running out of funds.
Q: Why do you think Hope is just now said to be "running out"?
A: I’m certain that there’s a lot of money wasted by kids that are awarded the Hope Scholarship just out of high school, who really didn’t earn a B. Anybody in their right mind knows that a B is not a B around the state of Georgia. A B is subjective. It’s subject to a number of teachers, a number of prejudices’, that affect someone’s letter grade or number grade. I think that there are schools that may not have a spoken policy, but an unspoken ‘wink at me’ policy that, if you can, bump up as many people as you can to a B so they’ll have a chance at the Hope Scholarship, and to go to college. The sad thing is that they didn’t earn that B, and when they get to a real college they flunk out in the first or second semester, they don’t have to pay the Hope money back, so that money is literally flushed down a toilet, and you don’t have an educated citizen at the other end of four years to sho for it.
Q: Do you think we could have done anything to avoid this problem or was it inevitable from the beginning?
A: It’s inevitable, I think, because money talks. As long as it’s [Hope] tied to a subjective A, B, or C grade people will do what people have always done to help other people get a chance at getting money. I think the entire system, high school and college, connected with Hope should be reoriented around academic testing. We have an end of course test in 9th and 11th grade in every subject. If you don’t pass it theoretically you’re not supposed to graduate. The same thing should be true in college. After your first year of college with generic courses, which all kids take, you should pass a test. If you don’t pass the test you don’t get Hope. Not maintain and A or B average, I think there are too many professors giving B’s so that money keeps rolling into their college.
Q: With Hope running out where do we go from here?
A: We ask the legislature to get more money from the lottery corporation. A private corporation runs the lottery and gives a part of it, that’s required by Georgia law, to Georgia. They give the required part not a penny more. I think we should ask for more money. It’s our lottery, it’s Georgia’s lottery. We can maybe open it up to bids and let companies compete to live on less profit, Georgia gets more in their back pocket, and the lottery corporation gets less. That’s one thing is to adjust the pie, that only has so many pieces, and right now the lottery corporation enjoys more than half of the pie. Secondly we need to tie any Hope scholarships within high school to ACT or SAT scores, nothing else. Then we should definitely have an end of the freshmen year test, in college, to see if kids have learned enough to keep getting that Hope Scholarship. We should also say that if you don’t graduate in five years you owe us the money back that we gave you in Hope. Then we wouldn’t have any funding problems. If you have to pay it back by flunking out less people would flunk out. They would try harder.
Q: Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of Hope?
A: That depend on rather you look at the Hope Scholarship as an entitlement, a gift, or as a loan based on certain conditions, and the loan might be forgiven if you do certain things. I’d like to see it as a loan. Yeah, we’ll give you the money for four years of college. We’ll give you five years to graduate and if you graduate you don’t have to pay us back. If you don’t graduate you owe us all that money until you do get your diploma. Furthermore, you know as well as I do that there are a lot of kids here, going to Georgia colleges, that as soon as they graduate they're going to move to New York City or Miami or New Orleans, and Georgia doesn’t get the benefit of the four years of money they gave a child to get a degree. They give nothing back to Georgia. They never pay taxes in Georgia for the rest of their life. My idea is similar to that of the Naval, Military, and Airforce Academies. When we give you four years of free education you owe us seven years of service, after that you can move wherever you want, but you owe us seven years of living, working, and paying taxes in Georgia.
Q: Do you have any advice for scholarship seeking students?
A: There’s no lack of opportunity to get money to go to college if you really want to no matter what state you live in, whether it has a Hope policy or not. It depends on how seriously you want to go to college. I would encourage people in high school to be darn sure they get out of high school with the best they can do.
- Stephen Hundley