Georgia has a unique scholarship opportunity for our best high school graduates, called the HOPE Scholarship program (HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally). This ingenious program is funded entirely by revenue generated by the Georgia Lottery, and gives scholarships, grants, and other financial aid to deserving high school seniors and graduates, for tuition and other educational costs at eligible public and private colleges and technical schools in Georgia. The HOPE Scholarship program is completely merit-based, so it goes to the hardest working students in the state.
There are several eligibility criteria that you need to meet, in order to apply for HOPE Scholarships and other financial aid. If you graduated from a HOPE-eligible high school in Georgia, then you need to have at least a 3.0 GPA. If you didn't graduate from a HOPE-eligible high school, though, it isn't the end of the world! Graduates from non-eligible high schools, or from a Georgia home study program, or even those who took the effort to go back and earn a GED can get HOPE assistance if they score in the 80th percentile on the ACT or SAT before completing 30 college credits. Graduates of Georgia home study programs or non-HOPE-eligible high schools can also get funding by earning a 3.0 cumulative GPA after attempting 30 college credits, and anyone can be eligible for HOPE funding if they have a 3.0 GPA after attempting 30, 60, or 90 semester hours at college.
In addition to these scholastic requirements, there are also several other eligibility requirements for financial assistance through HOPE:
- You need to be a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of Georgia,
- If you're required to be registered in the Selective Service, you need to be properly registered,
- You can't be behind, or in default, on any student loan programs,
- You have to have graduated from high school less than seven years ago, and
- You need to be in compliance with the Georgia Drug-Free Postsecondary Education Act of 1990
This last requirement can be an issue, if you're not careful. Unfortunately, you'll fall out of compliance with the Drug-Free Postsecondary Act if you get convicted of a felony drug offense. While driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) are only felonies in Georgia if it's your fourth conviction, DUI stops have a tendency of turning into other charges, as they can give police the opportunity to search your car and find evidence of drug possession crimes. These are nearly always felonies: The only non-felony drug possession charge is for less than an ounce of marijuana. All other drug possession charges are felonies in Georgia.
If you end up getting convicted of a felony drug offense, then your HOPE Scholarship will be revoked for both that semester, as well as the next. Additionally, you can't receive HOPE funding while incarcerated, even if you do manage to take classes while in jail. Unfortunately, even misdemeanor drug possession charges can lead to up to a year of jail time, so even these can have a big impact on your HOPE Scholarship. If you do end up serving jail time for a drug offense, you may still be eligible for HOPE funding once your sentence is over, so you can get back into school and get the education you deserve.
If you need help making sure that a DUI charge doesn't affect your HOPE Scholarship, call me at (404) 816-4440 and let me help you. A mistake shouldn't put your educational future at risk.