Consideration of the Haslam Administration’s “Complete to Compete” initiative, aimed at ensuring HOPE scholarship and Tennessee Promise recipients remain on track for timely graduation, was heard this week in the Senate Education Committee and was rolled for one week in the House Administration & Planning Committee. A vote in the Senate Education Committee was also ultimately deferred until next week.
The initiative would require students receiving the Tennessee Promise or HOPE scholarships to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours in a 12-month period or receive a $250 reduction in award aid. Currently, to be a “full-time” student, students are required to take a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester. However, in recent years, UT campuses have encouraged, but not required, students to take 15 credit hours per semester to better enable a path to a bachelor’s degree within four years.
During the Senate hearing, the Administration introduced an amendment which would exempt students with documented learning disabilities, students whose degree programs require less than 30 hours in a three-consecutive-semester period, semesters in which a student needed to take a leave of absence, and semesters in which students participate in cooperative education program or internship. The amendment was put on the bill by a unanimous vote. Several of these exemptions were requested by the University of Tennessee.
Sen. Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville) also introduced an amendment, which is expected to be discussed next week. The Dickerson amendment is backed by the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) and exempts four-year universities from the entire bill, making it only applicable to community colleges.
The University of Tennessee is deferred to the will of the legislature on the issue.