Tennessee Promise Passes House, Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act of 2014 was passed by the House of Representatives last night on an 87-8 vote.  Members voting no included Representatives Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin), Andy Holt (R-Dresden), Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma), Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg), and Rick Womick (R-Rockvale).

The legislation passed in the Senate earlier this week and now heads to the Governor’s desk, his signature being the final step in the lawmaking process.

The Tennessee Promise is a key component of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 Initiative, the goal of which is raising higher education attainment from the current level of 32 percent to 55 percent by the year 2025.  The Promise Scholarship will serve as a “last dollar” award, to be applied after all other scholarships and financial aid towards the cost of tuition and fees for first-time Tennessee freshman students pursuing an associates degree or technical certificate.

But the legislation also includes provisions aimed specifically at helping students at four-year universities.

Currently, HOPE scholarship eligibility is capped at 120 attempted semester hours or when a degree is earned, whichever of the two comes first.  If a student attempts 120 hours, yet still hasn’t attained a degree, their eligibility for the HOPE ceases.

The Tennessee Promise legislation changes this.  The legislation allows students to remain eligible for the HOPE scholarship for 8 full semesters (taking as many hours as they wish within that period), or to use the standard 120 semester hour cap.  In short, students will receive more flexibility in retaining their scholarships.

As with most policy changes, the change in HOPE Scholarship terminating events comes with a price tag.  To cover the cost of making this change, The Tennessee Promise legislation changes HOPE Scholarship award amounts.

At four-year universities, freshmen and sophomores eligible for the HOPE award will receive $3,500 annually.  HOPE eligible juniors and seniors will receive $4,500 annually.