Graduating high school in Georgia just got complicated, and graduating high school with a HOPE scholarship got even more complicated than that.
Beginning this year, the state is requiring every eighth grader to complete a high school graduation plan at the end of the school year and select a career pathway to study throughout high school.
And if they want to qualify for a HOPE scholarship when they graduate, they’re going to have to meet new academic rigor requirements by taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual enrollment college courses. The changes are part of the state’s new College and Career Readiness Initiative.
“The changes are designed to produce a more competitive student as well as get students to start thinking about life after high school,” said Savannah-Chatham Public Schools Executive Director of School Governance Aretha Rhone-Bush.
To shift student focus toward career preparation, elementary schools are required to provide career awareness programs to expose students to various careers and the type of education and training they require.
Middle school students will participate in job shadowing and the career explorer post program.
At the end of the eighth grade they will have to choose one of 17 career pathways they want to pursue in high school and complete a four-year graduation plan that maps out the career pathway courses they must complete to earn a high school diploma.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean eighth graders have all year to make up their minds.
Neighborhood high schools offer a variety of pathways for students to consider, and every student can choose from the long list of career and technical education courses available online.
Specialized pathways are also available at specialty programs.
Because specialty program applications are due Feb. 7 and specialty schools may have unique admissions and audition requirements, parents should start speaking with their eighth graders about their interests now.
Eighth graders who have a hard time making up their minds about what career pathway interests them most have until the end of their freshman year to change their four-year graduation plan.
After that they won’t have much wiggle room. Each pathway includes at least three courses, and students have to complete a single pathway to graduate.
They wouldn’t have time to complete all three marketing related classes in that pathway.
“Our parents and students will really have to work closely with guidance counselors to understand the course scheduling that will be required to complete an entire pathway,” Rhone-Bush said. “That’s why the four-year plans will be essential.”
New HOPE requirements
While students are completing their career pathway courses, they’re going to need to take rigorous college preparation courses to be eligible for a HOPE scholarship.
It has become increasingly harder to qualify for Georgia’s lottery funded, merit-based college financial aid program. Originally, any high school graduate with a B average would receive a HOPE scholarship to cover college costs.
Then HOPE requirements were raised so students had to earn a 3.0 average in their core academic courses — including English, math and science — to get a percentage of their college tuition covered based on the credit hours in which they enroll.
Students who earned a 3.7 average would get the bulk of their tuition covered by the Zell Miller Scholarship.
The latest change requires students to take rigorous courses to qualify for both the HOPE and the Zell Miller scholarships. Rigorous courses, according to the state, include advanced high school courses such as calculus, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual enrollment college courses.
Beginning next year, the class of 2015 will have to have earned at least two full credits from the state rigorous course list to qualify for HOPE. The class of 2016 will have to complete three rigorous course credits, and the class of 2017 and all subsequent graduating classes will have to complete at least four course credits from the rigor list.
Students can keep up with their HOPE grade point average qualifications by logging into their GaCollege 411 accounts online at www.gacollege411.org .