OLR Research Report

October 17, 2000





By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked which states have merit-based college scholarship programs similar to Georgia' s HOPE Scholarship Program. You also asked how these programs are funded.


Nine states have merit scholarship programs for state residents that are similar to Georgia's HOPE Scholarship Program, according to computer searches and information provided by the Education Commission of the States. The nine states (including Georgia) have a total of 14 programs that have the following basic characteristics:

● Recipients must achieve a minimum level of academic achievement, such as a “B” average in high school.

● Scholarships are awarded regardless of financial need.

● They are limited to state residents.

California, Louisiana, Missouri, and South Carolina fund their programs from general state revenues. The Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and New Mexico scholarship programs are funded by state lotteries. Michigan's program is funded through a trust fund partly capitalized by the state's tobacco settlement funds.


In 2000, California enacted two new merit scholarship programs and appropriated $118 million for FY 2000-01 to fund them. The legislation also created a Golden State Scholarshare Trust to invest the scholarship award money in recipients' names until they attend college. Awards and earnings are state income-tax free. Scholarships are considered entitlements to their recipients.

Governor's Scholars Program

This program gives 9th, 10th, and 11th graders scholarships of $1,000 for each year they achieve high scores on the reading and mathematics parts of the statewide achievement tests. California currently uses the Stanford Achievement Test, 9th edition (SAT-9) to test students annually in grades 2 through 11. The SAT-9 is augmented by additional questions aligned to state standards in language arts and mathematics.

To be eligible for an award, students must achieve a combined SAT-9 score that is in the top 5% of all test takers in their grade-level statewide or in the top 10% of the test takers in their grade-level in their school. Students who score in both groups in the same year receive only one award. But a student who meets these criteria in each year of eligibility (9th, 10th, and 11th grade) receives $1,000 for each year. Students must have attended a California public school for at least a year before taking the SAT-9 test.

The state expects to make awards to 100,000 students with its FY 2000-01 appropriation of $112 million.

Governor's Distinguished Math and Science Scholars Program

This program provides additional $2,500 scholarships to public school students who receive Governors' Scholars awards and also achieve high scores on Advanced Placement (AP) science and math exams or equivalent tests. Students may receive only one Distinguished Math and Science Award.

To be eligible for an award, a student must:

1. receive a Governor's Scholar award (see above);

2. attend a California public high school for at least one continuous year; and

3. take the AP calculus exam and an AP exam in biology, chemistry, or physics.

If a student's high school does not offer the AP calculus and at least one of the AP science courses, he may substitute the equivalent Golden State Exam. If a student's school offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, he must do well on the science and math parts of the IB exam.

To receive an award a student must achieve one of the following:

● 5 (highest score) on both the regular AP calculus exam and one of the three regular AP science exams,

● 4 or 5 on the higher-level AP calculus and physics exams, or

● 6 (highest honors) on both the Golden State math exam and one of the four Golden State science exams.

The state expects to make awards to 2,600 students based on a $6 million appropriation for FY 2000-01.


Florida has three types of scholarships under the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. The scholarships are funded by the Florida State Lottery. Six cents of each dollar paid for each lottery ticket goes to the program.

Florida Academic Scholars Award

Scholarship Amount. For students attending public institutions, the scholarship pays100% of tuition and fees, including lab fees up to $300 per semester, plus $300 per semester for college-related expenses. For students attending a private college, the scholarship is a fixed amount equal to the average tuition and fees at a comparable Florida public institution, plus $300 per semester for college-related expenses.

Qualifications. To qualify, a student must have a weighted high school grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.5 and perform 75 hours of approved community service. Students must also have at least a 1270 combined SAT score or a 28 combined ACT score. The student's high school program must include specific college preparatory courses.

Students with the following qualifications are also eligible:

● National Merit or Achievement Scholars or finalists

● National Hispanic Scholars

● IB Diploma recipient

● Complete the IB curriculum with best composite score of 1270 SAT or 28 ACT

● Students who are home-schooled during grades 11 and 12 with best composite score of 1270 SAT or 28 ACT

● GED diploma with 1270 SAT or 28 ACT and a 2.5 GPA in 19 specified course credits

● Early admission with 1270 SAT or 28 ACT and 3.5 GPA in courses completed

Florida Merit Scholars Award

Award Amount. For students attending public colleges, the scholarship covers 75% of tuition and fees, including lab fees up to $300 per semester. Students attending private colleges receive the same amount.

Qualifications. To qualify, students must have a weighted high school GPA of at least 3.0 and at least a 970 combined SAT score or a 20 combined ACT score. There is no community service requirement. High school coursework requirements and other ways to qualify are the same as for the Academic Scholars Award, with the lower test score and GPA requirements.

Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award

Award Amount. Same as Merit Scholars Award.

Academic Qualifications. Students must have a 3.0 weighted GPA and an unweighted 3.5 GPA in a minimum of three vocational credits in one vocational program. They must take specific high school courses and must receive the following minimum test scores:




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The Georgia HOPE Scholarship is available to Georgia high school students who achieve a minimum GPA. It is funded by a state lottery.

The program provides full tuition at a Georgia public college, plus money for fees and a book allowance. Those who attend in-state private colleges receive an equivalent award.

Students must have a high school average GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a numeric average of 80. Starting with the high school graduating class of 2000, only grades earned in core-curriculum high school subjects will be counted in computing the GPA.


The Kentucky Educational Excellence (KEE) Scholarship consists of base and supplemental amounts that vary according to high school grades and ACT scores. It is funded by a state lottery.

The KEE scholarship awards annual base amounts ranging from $125 to $500 for each year of post-secondary study ($500 to $2,000 for four years). Amounts depend on GPA. Students may also receive a supplemental award ranging from $36 to $500 for high ACT scores. The highest possible total award is $2,500.

Students must have a high school GPA of at least 2.5 to receive the minimum base award. Annual amounts increase for each .1 increase in GPA. A student with a 4.0 GPA receives the maximum base award ($500 per year).

To receive a supplemental award a student must score at least 15 on the ACT. Awards increase for each one-point increase in ACT scores. ACT scores of 28 or above receive the highest supplemental award ($500).


Louisiana's Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is funded by general state revenues. To receive an award, a student must graduate from a Louisiana high school and be a Louisiana resident. Home-schooled students and children of military members stationed in Louisiana have alternative eligibility requirements.

Students must have a minimum high school GPA of 2.5. Starting with the Class of 2003, only grades in certain core courses will count. Awards are good only at Louisiana public and independent colleges. Students must use awards by the first semester following the first anniversary of their high school graduation.

The program has three basic components with different academic qualifications and award amounts as shown below.

Eligibility Requirements

Opportunity Award

Performance Award

Honors Award





ACT Score

Prior year state average (currently 20)



Maximum Award at Public University

Tuition and certain fees

Same plus $400

Same plus $800

Maximusm Award at Independent University

Weighted average of tuition at public degree-granting schools

Same plus $400

Same plus $800

Alternate Eligibility Requirement

ACT score of 23

ACT score of 26

ACT score of 30


The Michigan Merit Award Program awards $2,500 to Michigan high school students who meet or exceed state standards on state high school achievement tests in math, reading, science, and writing. A student who takes all four tests and meets or exceeds standards on two of them can also qualify by (1) scoring in the 75th percentile or higher on the ACT or SAT test or (2) achieving qualifying scores on the ACT Work Keys job skills assessment test as determined by the Michigan Merit Award Board.

The Michigan program starts with the Class of 2000. Awards must be used at approved postsecondary institutions. The program is funded by a trust fund partly derived from tobacco settlement funds the state receives.


The Missouri Higher Education Academic Scholarship Program gives Missouri residents scholarships of $2,000 per year to attend Missouri colleges and universities. The program is funded by general state revenues.

To qualify, a student must:

1. have a composite ACT or SAT scores in the top 3% of Missouri high school seniors taking those tests;

2. be a graduating high school senior who enrolls as a full-time, first-time student at an approved Missouri postsecondary institution; and

3. be a Missouri resident.

Students must use the scholarships in the academic year immediately following high school graduation. Awards cannot be used to pursue theology or divinity degrees or certificates.


The New Mexico Lottery Success Scholarships pay up to 100% of tuition at a New Mexico public college or university for New Mexico residents who graduate from accredited New Mexico public or private high schools or obtain a New Mexico GED. Recipients must (1) enroll full-time in a New Mexico public college or university in the first semester following high school graduation and (2) maintain at least a 2.5 GPA in their first college semester. They begin receiving aid in their second semester of full-time enrollment.

Aid depends on the availability of funds. The program is funded with revenue from the state lottery through a Lottery Tuition Fund.


The Legislative Incentive for Future Excellence (LIFE) Scholarships are funded through general state revenues. They provide $3,000 for students who attend four-year public or independent colleges and the full cost of tuition and fees for 30 credit hours for students who attend two-year public or independent colleges. To be eligible, a student must have a cumulative high school GPA of at least 3.0 and, for students who graduate in 2000 and 2001, a minimum combined SAT score of 1050 or a combined ACT score of 22. (The SAT/ACT requirement does not apply to students attending two-year colleges.)

Students must also (1) attend college in South Carolina, (2) begin college within two years and three months of graduating from high school, and (3) be enrolled full time. They must have either graduated from a South Carolina high school, graduated from a South Carolina home school program, or graduated from an out-of-state high school while the legal dependent of a South Carolina resident.