School Choice & Charters

Tenn. HOPE Scholarships Contribute to Enrollment Surge

By Joetta L. Sack — October 08, 2004 3 min read
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Tennessee’s lottery proceeds are helping to send more than 35,000 students to the state’s public colleges and universities this fall, a number that state leaders say is overwhelming and shows just how popular the new program has already become.

But data compiled by the state financial-aid office show that 82 percent of those students are white, and that 57 percent are female—a disappointment to some who had hoped the scholarships would spur more minority-group members and men to seek a higher education.

Only 11 percent of the scholarships went to African-Americans, and 42 percent went to men.

The data provide a baseline for what state officials see as a multiyear project to gauge the success of the hope Scholarship program, which is modeled on a program of the same name in neighboring Georgia.

Tennessee’s $105 million program gives scholarships of up to $4,000 a year to state residents who graduate from high school with adequate grades and test scores and go to state institutions.

“This has been a very successful program in its first year,” said Carrington Fox, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corp., which oversees financial-aid programs.

“The availability of the data gives us a rare opportunity to step back and look at who is pursuing a higher education,” she continued, “and the reasons they’re not, and see if there are any areas where we need to focus more attention and more resources.”

So far, she said, there are no plans to change the state’s marketing of the program, but officials are making efforts to publicize the program and make sure all high school students are aware of its benefits.

“Our goal is to make sure every Tennessean is aware of the program and has the information and ability to apply for the program,” Ms. Fox said.

Students can receive a $3,000 hope Scholarship if they graduate from a public or private high school with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and an act composite score of at least 21 out of a possible 36 or 980 out of a possible 1,600 sat score. They must enroll in a state college or university, however.

Another 11,000 residents have received scholarships of up to $1,250, also financed by the Tennessee lottery, to attend the state’s technical colleges under a separate program to increase access to vocational education programs.

Growing Enrollments

Across the state, most public colleges and universities saw increases in this year’s freshman enrollments that their officials say can be attributed in part to the lottery funds. Tennessee’s legislature adopted the lottery in 2003 after a 2002 voter-approved ballot initiative paved the way.

Scholarship Recipients

Though extremely popular, Tennessee HOPE Scholarships have not reached as many minority students and males in the program’s first year as state officials had hoped.

Total scholarship recipients:*
Total value of scholarships:
$105 million
Race or Ethnicity
Black 3,915
White 29,482
Asian 532
Hispanic 217
Native American 19
Other 256
Male 15,025
Female 20,360
No Response 357

The University of Tennessee’s main campus in Knoxville saw a 24 percent jump from 3,568 freshmen last year to 4,422 freshmen this year. All but six of the freshmen from Tennessee received a hope scholarship, said spokesman John Clark.

“We believe certainly that the hope scholarship was a big part of the increase,” he added.

Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., saw its freshman class increase by 23 percent over last year’s. Its total university admissions rose to an estimated 8,200 students—up from 7,600 in the fall of 2003.

Houston Davis, the associate vice president for academic affairs at Austin Peay, said university officials estimate that about one-third of the 1,200 students in this year’s freshman class are going to college because of the hope Scholarships.

But Austin Peay officials had already predicted this year’s enrollment boom several years ago, because even without the hope Scholarships, enrollment trends showed that more students would be moving on to higher education. The university also began an aggressive marketing campaign three years ago, Mr. Houston said.

“We knew right out of the gate that there would be an additional need for math, English, and history positions, so we went ahead and hired positions for those,” Mr. Houston said.

A new, 350-bed dormitory open ed last year to house more students. “We’re still full,” Mr. Houston added. “They’re packed in every place they can be packed in.”

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