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News & Press: Policy Update

Second Session of the 111th General Assembly Underway

Friday, January 31, 2020  
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Second Session of the 111th General Assembly is Underway 

The 111th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee reconvened on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, for its final year of the two-year session.  It’s unusual to have leadership changes between sessions but with the resignation of Rep. Glen Casada from Speaker, the House elected Rep. Cameron Sexton to assume the post.  Rep. Sexton is from Crossville and has demonstrated long-standing support for TICUA member institutions. 

TICUA Supports TSAA Changes

      The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) have jointly put forth a budget request which changes the eligibility requirements for the state’s need-based student grant program.  Currently, students must have a 2100 EFC or lower, as calculated by the FAFSA, to be eligible for the Tennessee Student Assistance Award.  The change would expand the student population served by increasing the EFC to 3000.  

Essentially, this would provide grant eligibility to families with combined annual family incomes around $40,000 and less, up from the current $30,000 range.  It is estimated that the change would cost just over $9 million.  TICUA will be working with THEC in communicating the value of the increase to members of the General Assembly.


      The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has drafted a bill that provides a comprehensive update to several higher education programs. The draft bill is currently being reviewed by legal staff to make sure it’s in proper form for filing.  At this point it appears that the bill sponsors will be Sen. Dolores Gresham and Rep. Gary Hicks.  Some of the key provisions of the 74-section bill include:

• Aligns “program of study” student aid requirements with the Federal Title IV definition.
• Simplifies terminating events for scholarship programs.
• Defines an academic year for awarding student aid as Fall-Spring-Summer.
• Removes loan management provisions for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC).
• Reduces the number of directors on the TSAC Board.  This includes the elimination of the Executive Director of THEC, commercial lender member, and the Chair of TICUA.  It retains the position for the TICUA President.
• Phases out underutilized scholarship and scholarship-to-loan programs.
• Broadens provisions for veteran participation in scholarship programs.
• Cleans up residency definition.
• Simplifies home school eligibility for scholarship programs.
• Aligns foster care definitions with U.S. Department of Education.
• “Non-traditional” student be defined as an independent student as determined by the  FAFSA. 

It is anticipated that the bill will be filed within the next few days and will be taken up quickly by the House and Senate Education committees.  TICUA will continue to monitor the bill’s progress and any amendments that may be filed to alter the intent.

Student Athlete Compensation 

      Sen. Brian Kelsey and Rep. Antonio Parkinson have filed a bill (SB1636/HB1694) which prohibits a public institution of higher education from preventing a student athlete from earning compensation as a result of the use of the student athlete's name, image, or likeness. The bill’s provisions allow student athletes to receive compensation, enter into contracts, and hire professional representation.  This bill further prohibits a public institution of higher education, an athletic association, conference, or other group with authority over intercollegiate athletics from providing a prospective student athlete with compensation.  The language is like that which was passed by the California state legislature.  This has become a widely discussed policy issue that is being addressed by the various athletic conferences.

TN Promise Completion Grant Pilot Program 

      Sen. Joey Hensley and Rep. Scott Cepicky have filed a bill (SB1741/HB1592) which requires TSAC to establish a four-year pilot program to award completion grants to Tennessee Promise scholarship students who have an immediate financial need or who are experiencing a financial hardship that may prevent the student from completing a postsecondary degree or credential.

The Fiscal Note indicates that the pilot could cost upwards of $1.3 million from lottery funds.  It assumes that approximately 2,800 students would receive an average $450 grant.  The bill has passed the House Higher Education Subcommittee and will be reviewed by the full House Education Committee.  The Senate Education Committee has yet to calendar the bill.

Governor Lee to Address TICUA Presidents 

      Governor Bill Lee has agreed to address the TICUA Presidents at the upcoming 64th TICUA Annual Meeting on February 18, 2020.  Other elected officials agreeing to attend include Lt. Governor Randy McNally, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, Finance Chairs Sen. Bo Watson and Rep. Susan Lynn, Education Chairs, Sen. Dolores Gresham and Rep. Mark White.  Representatives from the State Board of Education and the Tennessee Department of Education will bring an update on the revised Teacher Education Report Card and Annual Report.