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News & Press: Policy Update

TICUA Policy Update: House Passes State Authorization Bill, STEP-UP Bill

Friday, March 15, 2019  
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House Passes State Authorization Bill

       SB335/HB688 sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham and Rep. Mark White unanimously passed the House floor this week.  The bill is now headed to Governor Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

Once signed, 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 Passes Senate Education Committee


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.  

The amendment fundamentally changes the way institutions offer campus housing.  Currently, campus housing eligibility is determined largely by the program for which the student is enrolled.  For example, housing is not typically offered to students in non-degree seeking programs, are enrolled less than three-quarter of the time, is solely enrolled in online programs, and so forth.  Under this bill, campuses cannot deny housing by classifying the STEP-UP program as a “day” or “commuter” program.  Rather, they would be required to process all housing requests made by their participants.

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 commuter format which does not include a housing option.  

TICUA testified that passage of the bill, as amended, could have several unintended consequences.  First, it may place a chilling-effect on expansion of current programs and on the creation of new programs.  Second, it may cause campuses to make the entrance requirements more stringent thus not serving many students with disabilities who would benefit from the program’s curriculum.  This would occur because campuses would need to ensure participants can navigate the residential experience before they were admitted.  Third, the move from basing housing eligibility from programmatic to student-centered criteria, may open campuses to litigation.  The courts have demonstrated that programmatic determinations are much less subjective and more fair than student-centered ones.  

The House version of the bill is set on a calendar for consideration in the Higher Education Subcommittee this next Tuesday, March 19, 2019.