The State of Need-Based Scholarships



A graduation ceremony at Georgia tech with graduates and white and gold balloons

Leveling Up to Compete With Institute Peers

Full need-based aid packages are common at U.S. universities such as MIT and Harvard, routinely attracting stellar Georgians and other high-potential prospective students away from Georgia Tech.

To remedy that situation, Transforming Lives, one of the subthemes of Georgia Tech’s current fundraising campaign, Transforming Tomorrow: The Campaign for Georgia Tech, aims to address the lack of access to a Georgia Tech education many would-be students encounter because of limited financial resources.

Alumni Accommodating Aspirations

But even before this dedicated campaign thrust, there have been alumni dedicated to expanding access.

Case in point: In 1999, Francis “Bo” Godbold, IE 1965, his wife Betsy, and their children John Godbold, AE 1991, and Laura Blair, endowed the Godbold Family Foundation Scholarship for out-of-state students who could not otherwise attend Georgia Tech. Facing significant financial challenges when he applied to Tech from South Carolina, Godbold was inspired to establish the scholarship because he received a merit scholarship that enabled him, as an out-of-state student, to attend Georgia Tech. Now, students demonstrating academic prowess and financial need in small regions of Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have that same opportunity. Godbold Scholars have 100% of their university financial needs met through an Institute gift that is matched with a Godbold Scholarship in combination with a $2,500 work-study opportunity. Thus far, more than 100 students have benefited from the Godbolds’ generosity.

Then in 2007, alumnus and President Emeritus G. Wayne Clough, recognizing that the same hurdles affect many Georgia residents, established the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise Program. This program assists students who have substantial need (currently $55,500 annual household income or less) by providing full-cost-of-attendance scholarships, expanding access for rural, urban, and first-generation students from Georgia — essentially helping students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds realize a Georgia Tech education, while increasing the Institute’s overall diversity. Nearly 1,100 students have received Tech Promise scholarships to date.

“An increasing number of our peer institutions have committed to providing full financial packages to nearly all their admitted students, whereas we cannot,” – Steve McLaughlin Provost/Executive Vice President Academic Affairs

Non-Alumni Support

Meanwhile, there are other scholarships, not created by alumni, that help incoming students pay for college.

In 2014, President Emeritus G.P. “Bud” Peterson established the Atlanta Public Schools Scholars Program, which gives the top two graduates of all Atlanta public schools a full-tuition scholarship.

Strictly merit-based scholarships do not, however, always address all scenarios of need. A new need-based award was, therefore, established for the entire state in Fall 2023. With this new Georgia Tech Val-Sal Scholarship, valedictorians and salutatorians who have significant demonstrated need (typically under $75,000 in annual gross household income) may be considered for a $2,500- or $5,000-per-year award, depending on need-level. This fall, 25 students statewide received aid totaling $81,090. In addition, 75 APS Scholars have been supported to date.

Another significant effort toward filling the need-based financial assistance bucket is the G.P “Bud” Peterson and Valerie H. Peterson Scholarship Endowment Fund. Following President Peterson’s 2019 retirement, several donors, alumni among them, came together to thank Bud and Val Peterson for their decade of leadership as president and first lady of Tech. To date, this fund has provided $1,205,981 in aid to 25 scholars.

Additionally, aside from several $500 to $2,500 one-time or renewable need-based scholarships administered by the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, there are some need- and merit-based awards available through the Colleges. In the College of Engineering, the A. James Clark Scholars Program is an endowed program that supports 10 new students annually. And the College of Engineering Dean’s Scholars Program ($10,000 per year) supports between two and eight new students annually. Combined, these programs have a current annual payout of around $800,000 in scholarship funds. About 70 students have received these awards since 2018.

Another award, not based on high school record, is the BlackRock Hallac Scholarship, which started in 2017-2018. It provides a maximum of two full-ride scholarships each year for undergraduate students with significant need and a 3.0 or greater GPA after their first year of study. To date, a total of $951,732 has been awarded for 14 scholars.

More Must Be Done

But for Georgia Tech to succeed in providing improved levels of aid to assist low-income, and even middle-income, students with need-based scholarships, more alumni must contribute.

“Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is a less achievable reality today, with the rising costs of obtaining a college education,” says Al Trujillo, president of the Georgia Tech Foundation. “Giving someone a boost, whether with a small award or a major gift, can help.”

Meanwhile, the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings listed Tech as the No. 10 public university, and the Institute’s undergraduate engineering program was ranked No. 3 nationwide — accolades likely to attract even more high-potential students. Lack of sufficient aid packages in comparison to elite competitors, however, may mean that more of these talented students will choose Institute competitors — not Georgia Tech.

Even with a merit award from the Stamps President’s Scholars Program or a need-based Tech Promise Scholarship — both full rides — many students choose the likes of Stanford, Caltech, or other elite universities. For instance, between 2015 and 2019, 101 students offered admission to MIT and either a full-cost-of-attendance scholarship or out-of-state tuition waiver (merit- and need-based awards) at Georgia Tech, turned Tech down.

“An increasing number of our peer institutions have committed to providing full financial packages to nearly all their admitted students, whereas we cannot,” said Provost Steve McLaughlin. “Today, 40 Stamps President’s Scholars and 75 Tech Promise Scholars are able to receive this kind of full financial support. For most other students, we can only meet about half of the identified financial need.”

This financial assistance shortcoming is a major reason the campaign’s success is critical. In the September 2023 edition of his newsletter, From the Desk of the President, Ángel Cabrera noted that among “all the campaign’s goals, student support is especially important, and that is one area where we are not tracking well — we are currently at 27% of the goal. I call on you to join forces and help us make a generational push to take Georgia Tech to an even higher level of excellence and impact.”