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Good news for Georgia Tech: House approves giving STEM majors bump in their HOPE GPA

It didn't take long for the House to pass the Rambling Wrecktification bill.

In a 167-0 vote today, the General Assembly approved House Bill 801, which gives a half-point boost to the final grades of students in tough science, technology, engineering or math classes.

Georgia Tech students, in particular, have long lamented they were losing their HOPE Scholarships because of the challenge of keeping up grades in arduous STEM courses.

The bill sponsored by influential House Republican Jan Jones adds an additional 0.5 point to a B, C or D in STEM courses at any of the state's public campuses. That is the same bump now awarded to high school students who enroll in advanced courses. The bill now moves to the state Senate.

To retain HOPE, students need to maintain a 3.0 average in college. To hold onto the more lucrative Zell Miller Scholarship, students must maintain a 3.30 GPA.

Jones maintained both the students and the state lost when kids gave up on STEM. That is where the jobs are and where the future growth will be.

Research supports the rationale behind  HB 801. A study released in the fall found the fear of losing the generous merit-based aid has reduced the number of Georgia students willing to pursue challenging science and math degrees. Researchers at Georgia and Oklahoma State universities found state merit-based scholarships, including HOPE, reduce the likelihood a student will earn a degree in a STEM field.

An earlier GSU study found the HOPE Scholarship reduced the likelihood of a student earning a bachelor's degree in a STEM field, citing a 12.6 percent decrease in the number of STEM graduates. The study said the decline in STEM majors was the result of initial STEM majors switching to another major.

The bill requires the Board of Regents to decide which STEM courses earn the boost. The legislation states:

Beginning in academic year 2017-2018, the cumulative grade point average calculated pursuant to this subsection shall include weighted grades for specific science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) college courses identified by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in consultation with the Technical College System of Georgia, the Department of Economic Development, and private eligible postsecondary institutions, by increasing the grade assigned by the instructor to the student for any such course by an additional 0.5 point if such grade is a B, C, or D. Such courses shall be academically rigorous and required for or leading to employment in high demand fields in Georgia in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.