House and Senate Education Committee members have passed an amended version of the Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act (SB 2471/HB 2491), a cornerstone policy of the Haslam Administration’s ‘Drive to 55’ Initiative that will now head to the House Government Operations Committee and Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration.
The legislation addresses several lottery-related areas, the most widely reported of which is the creation of a last dollar scholarship for Tennessee students seeking to attend community colleges and technology centers. After all financial aid and scholarships are utilized (i.e. Pell Grants, HOPE scholarships, etc.), the Tennessee Promise Scholarship would cover students’ remaining costs. The bill also importantly addresses the needs of students at four-year institutions whose academic pursuits go beyond the 120 hours needed for typical degree completion. Honors students, ROTC cadets, students seeking two majors and those who simply want more from their college experience than the minimum degree requirements have historically been financially discouraged from their pursuits due to the early cutoff of lottery award opportunities. The Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act seeks to better serve these students by providing them with an open-ended eight semesters of eligibility.
To help fund certain provisions of the bill, changes are proposed to current HOPE Scholarship award amounts.
In the bill’s original form, HOPE Scholarship awards would be altered from $4,000 annually for all eligible students to $3,000 annually for freshmen and sophomores and $5,000 annually for juniors and seniors at eligible four-year higher education institutions.
But the amended version that passed the House Education Committee yesterday differs and considers enrollment concerns that were voiced by a number of higher education stakeholders, including the University of Tennessee System. The UT System’s concerns have primarily centered on potential enrollment decreases at UT Chattanooga and UT Martin. The Governor’s office worked proactively with higher education stakeholders on the amendment.
The amended version of the bill seeks to alleviate some concern by altering the HOPE Scholarship award levels to $3,500 annually for freshmen and sophomores and $4,500 annually for juniors and seniors at eligible four-year higher education institutions.
Stay tuned for more developments.Tags: tennessee promise