Haslam compromises on TN Promise; TICUA says it can live with it

Gov. Bill Haslam is giving a little on his free community college plan after negotiating with four-year colleges and universities concerned about lowering amount of the HOPE Scholarship.

“To say we don’t still have some concerns would not be accurate,” said Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, in an email to the Post. He and leaders at four-year schools have expressed concern that the Tennessee Promise plan offering last-dollar scholarships for graduating high schoolers to attend two-year community colleges or technical schools would discourage attendance at four-year institutions.

Students can now qualify for a $4,000 scholarship for up to four years if they meet benchmarks for good grades or ACT scores. Under a version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed Tennessee Promise that advanced from the House Education Committee Tuesday, the scholarships will now total $3,500 for each of the first two years a student attends a four-year college or university and $4,500 awards for the second two years.

The governor’s original proposal set the HOPE Scholarship at $3,000 for the first two years and $5,000 for the second two.

“We will be watching the impact of the TN Promise and the change in the lottery scholarship amounts over the years to come," said Pressnell. "Our member colleges and universities do an incredible job of making college affordable with as little debt as possible. We want to make sure that all students make the right college choice so that they can be most successful in college and best prepared for a lifetime. This is the most important investment of time and resources that a person makes in a lifetime. Students and families shouldn’t simply settle for an academic path based on price.”

The bill now heads to the House Government Operations Commission and faces a hearing in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.