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News & Press: Policy Update


Friday, March 1, 2019  
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Senate and House Education Committees to Review GIVE Act


Next week, the Senate Education Committee and the House Higher Education Subcommittee will review Governor Lee’s signature education bill entitled the “Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education Act” or GIVE (SB0805/HB0949).  The bill will expand the dual enrollment scholarship aid for students seeking additional vocational training.  

Currently, the dual enrollment grant covers $500 for the first two courses and $200 for a third.  This aid is provided for all high school students seeking college and high school credit.  Under the GIVE Act, the dual enrollment grant will cover the first four dual enrollment courses.  The funding expansion will be given only to those students enrolling in programs that directly address annually determined workforce needs.  The eligible courses will be identified annually by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation board of directors. 

To remain eligible, students must maintain a 2.75 GPA in the postsecondary courses and may take only one course per semester.  However, students in their junior or senior years may take more than one dual enrollment course per semester if they have a 21 ACT score and have at least a 3.0 cumulative weighted GPA in high school.

The bill is expected to move quickly through the education committees and then to the respective finance committees.  It is anticipated that the Act will cost around $4 million and will be funded through the lottery proceeds.



House Education Passes State Authorization Bill


SB335/HB688 sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham and Rep. Mark White unanimously passed the House Education Committee this week.  The bill is now headed to the House Chamber for a vote.  This is the final hurdle before it is sent to Governor Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

Once passed, all primary and satellite TICUA campuses will be authorized by the state and exempt from regulatory oversight.  The measure ensures that Tennessee’s state authorization statutes align with federal requirements related to Title IV eligibility while maintaining the independence of TICUA member campuses.  

A list of authorized but exempt institutions in Tennessee can be found here.



STEP-UP Bill to be Amended

      Senator Becky Massey and Representative Rick Staples are sponsoring (SB0516/HB0586) which will allow students receiving the STEP-UP scholarship to apply for student housing.  The STEP-UP scholarship was created by the Legislature in 2013 to provide financial aid to students with intellectual disabilities who are attending life-skills courses on college campuses.  

Many of the TICUA campuses offering STEP-UP qualifying programs provide a housing option.  There are some campuses, however, that choose to offer the courses in a day or commuter format which does not include a housing option.  This bill, if passed, would require campuses to fairly consider housing requests from students participating in a STEP-UP program.

Senator Massey presented the bill before the Senate Education Committee this week but then rolled it for consideration in two weeks so that she can work on an amendment to address the concerns of the higher education community.  The House version of the bill has yet to be set on a calendar for consideration in the Higher Education Subcommittee. 


TICUA Opposes WGU’s Attempt to Gain Hope Scholarships

      TICUA has expressed grave concerns about allowing the Western Governors University to gain access to the HOPE Scholarship programs (SB0441/HB0497).  WGU-Tennessee offers an online competency-based program and has their marketing office domiciled in Franklin Tennessee.  Its academic and financial operations, however, are based in Park City, Utah.  

TICUA’s opposition is centered on three key concerns.  First, when former Governor Bill Haslam provided a $5 million grant to WGU to establish WGU-Tennessee, the lobbyist representing WGU indicated that “they were not eligible for Hope, nor was that their intention.”  This testimony was provided before the House Education Subcommittee on March 26, 2013.  TICUA asserts that WGU should honor their commitment to not seek Hope Scholarship aid.

Second, an exception for WGU could open the door for other out-of-state headquartered institutions to seek access to HOPE Scholarship aid.  The General Assembly has provided HOPE Scholarships exceptions in the past, but these were for nonprofit institutions with their main campus domiciled in Tennessee, not for operations based outside of the state.  Some of the regionally accredited institutions that offer online and/or ground programs in Tennessee and who may seek access to Hope Scholarships in the future include University of Phoenix, Troy State University, Strayer University, University of Alabama, and others.

Finally, Hope Scholarship aid for students attending four-year colleges and universities has not been adjusted upward to account for inflation since the early inception of the program.  Most recently, the scholarships for freshmen and sophomores were reduced by $500 per year to accommodate the funding needs of the Tennessee Promise program.  It has been TICUA’s priority to restore the funding levels of the first two years of the scholarship before any new programs are introduced, much less allowing an out-of-state institution gain access to the scholarship aid.