FORT MYERS - Taking away hope?
The Helping One Person Excel, or HOPE scholarship, which has been helping hundreds of at risk and low-income students attend Edison State College since 1998, is being dissolved.
In response, the Lee County NAACP wrote a letter to the college saying they were "perplexed" by the decision.
Rebecca Finer is on her way to getting a degree in public relations at FGCU - something she says wouldn't have been possible if not for Edison's HOPE scholarship.
"There's not a lot of scholarships out there for low-income families," said Finer.
The scholarship covers tuition costs and books and is aimed at helping at risk students and those with a financial need. Finer comes from a low-income family.
"Scholarships are very important to students like us," said Finer, "who don't have the means."
The HOPE scholarship allowed students to get their associates degree at Edison and then transfer to FGCU to get their bachelors. It just required high school students have a 2.5 GPA
The college announced it will be replaced by a Presidential scholarship, which raises the GPA requirement to 3.0 and makes it more difficult to get.
"It's going to be devastating to at-risk students," said NAACP First Vice President Shirley Chapman.
"There are a lot of at-risk students that would not be able to go to college," said Chapman, "if they dissolve this program."
Chapman's concern is that tougher standards will prevent at-risk students from going to college.
"People that can afford to go to school will be able to handle tougher standards," said Chapman. "But at-risk students need that extra help, that extra lift."
The college hasn't received the NAACP's letter yet but says the scholarship is being looked at through an "effective and efficiency lens."
A spokeswoman tells Fox 4 an internal review found HOPE scholars "do not graduate at the rate we would expect."
During her two years at Edison, Finer says she's seen 10 students drop out after just two years.
"I don't want to see it taken away," said Finer. "But I wouldn't be surprised if they made the criteria more difficult to make the money that they're shelling out to these kids go the distance."
The Presidential scholarship, which sets higher requirements and expectations, will roll out this fall.
There are currently 142 HOPE scholars on Edison's Lee County campus.
Edison State College statement
"Edison State College has a 50-year history of serving as an open door institution in Southwest Florida and providing opportunities for students who normally would not be able to attend college. We are a federally supported TRIO campus and provide programs designed for low income and first-time college students whose parents did not graduate from a four-year college/university.
Since his arrival at Edison State College, President Allbritten asked that we question why we do the things the way we do and how can we improve the experience for students. One area that the division of Student Affairs has focused on is scholarship programs. The process involves looking at scholarships through an effective and efficiency lens, and in the coming months, we will present a refocused and comprehensive scholarship plan.
Through this study we have learned that our HOPE scholars do not graduate at the rate we would expect. Low graduation rates are part of a national conversation, and one that Edison State is participating and actively exploring for solutions. One nationally-recognized organization, Complete College America, is addressing this issue, and the state of Florida is a partner in the discussion. Through this entire process, Edison State College is committed to seeing the graduation rate increase for all students."