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News & Press: Policy Update

TICUA Policy Update: STEP-UP Bill Sent to Summer Study, GIVE Act Passes Senate Full

Friday, March 29, 2019  
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STEP-UP Bill Sent to Summer Study

       After brief deliberation, the House Higher Education Subcommittee sent Rep. Rick Staples’ version of the STEP UP housing bill (SB0516/HB0586) to “Summer Study.”  This move effectively kills the bill for this session and creates a venue for further discussion over the summer months.  The bill would have allowed students receiving the STEP-UP scholarship to apply for student housing even if they were enrolled in a non-housing eligible program. 

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.  

An earlier amendment which was attached to the bill in the Senate Education Committee fundamentally changed 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-quarters of the time, is solely enrolled in online programs, and so forth.  Under this bill, campuses could not 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 on Monday during bill review, 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, moving housing eligibility determinations 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. 


Senate Votes to Approve GIVE Act

      The Senate Chamber voted 28-0 to approve 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.  It is anticipated that the Act will cost around $4 million and will be funded through the lottery proceeds. The House companion bill is scheduled to be heard in the Finance Subcommittee next week.
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.



Homeless Student Assistance Bill Passes House Subcommittee

      SB763/HB1000 sponsored by Senator Jeff Yarbro and Rep. Bill Beck would require higher education institutions to designate a staff member as a homeless-student liaison.  Students meeting the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. § 11434a(2)) definition are considered independent for the purposes of Title IV student aid.

The campus’ designee would provide student aid and housing guidance to students meeting this qualification.  The bill requires that homeless-students be given priority for available campus housing during enrollment periods and accommodations between enrollment periods if the campuses provides such services.

The bill passed the Senate last week and the House version is awaiting review by the Education Committee.