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News & Press: Policy Update

Annual Meeting, FAST Act, Literacy Initiative

Friday, February 21, 2020  
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Successful TICUA Annual Meeting 


President Claude Pressnell gives a policy update at the 64th TICUA Annual Meeting.

      The 64th TICUA Annual Meeting was held this past Tuesday and Wednesday, February 18 and 19.  The meeting was well attended by member presidents, select campus trustees, members of the TICUA Government Affairs Council, and the 2020 TICUA Executive Leadership Fellows.   

The day was packed with legal and policy information as well as visits from the top leadership of the Tennessee General Assembly.  Dignitaries addressing the attendees included House Education Chair Mark White, Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham, House Finance Chair Susan Lynn, Senate Finance Chair Bo Watson, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Governor Bill Lee.  

During the meeting TICUA honored Sen. Jon Lundberg with William Baird Leadership Award and House Speaker Cameron Sexton with the Harold Bradley Leadership Award.  These are the highest honors bestowed by TICUA for exemplary policy leadership on behalf of Tennessee’s private colleges and universities. 

TICUA was honored to host NAICU’s President Barbara Mistick during a private TICUA President’s breakfast on Wednesday morning.  Dr. Mistick covered a wide range of federal issues and led discussions around accreditation and the free college movement.

Next year’s 65th TICUA Annual Meeting will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16 and 17, 2021. 

FAST Act Passes Senate Education 




This past Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee unanimously passed the FAST Act (SB2097/HB2157).  Sponsors of the bill include Sen. Dolores Gresham and Rep. Gary Hicks.  The Tennessee Higher Education Commission drafted the bill which serves as a comprehensive update to several higher education programs.  Some of the key provisions of the 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.

The bill will now move to the Senate Finance Committee.  The House has assigned the bill to the House Higher Education Subcommittee and it will be heard on Tuesday, February 25th. 

Governor Lee Calls Meeting to Discuss Literacy Initiative  


Governor Lee has called a meeting for Monday, February 24 to discuss the Administration’s bill (SB2160/HB229) to address early literacy.  College and university presidents with teacher preparation programs have been invited to attend. 

The bill seeks to improve literacy through scientific and evidenced based phonics instruction.  The focus is on districts which have K-3 students reading below expectations.  Those districts with 3rd grade reading proficiencies above 15% of the state average and with institutions with at least 55% of reading proficiency will be exempt. 

The bill requires that Education Preparation Providers (EPP) must have their K-2 teacher and administrative leadership candidates pass a test developed or identified by the department that tests the candidate's knowledge of evidence-based and scientifically-based reading instruction in order to receive a teacher license.  Too, college and university professors teaching in the K-3 band must have an active teacher license to teach, pass the literacy test, or have the requirement waived by the Department. 

Interestingly, the bill goes further to require all EPP programs to submit information about college cost and student loan burdens of EPP graduates.  The bill states, “A joint analysis with the Tennessee higher education commission regarding affordability of educator preparation providers, including tuition affordability for future educators, costs relative to peer institutions in other states, student loan and debt burden of educator preparation provider graduates, an assessment of financial barriers that may prevent high school graduates and career changers from pursuing teaching as a profession, and the ability to reduce the costs of offering educator preparation and credentials.” 

Monday’s meeting is expected to also include explanations of Governor Lee’s two key initiatives for teacher preparation.  As noted in a previous Policy Update, Lee revealed the creation of the Tennessee Teacher and Leader Institute during his State of the State Address.  According to the budget documents, this will be a Tennessee-based teacher and leader training institute. The institute would provide access to national experts, unique curriculum and innovation labs. Lee set aside $20 million non-recurring/$5 million recurring for the Institute. 

To increase student support to enter the teaching profession Lee also announced the creation of the Governor’s Fellowship Initiative.  The initiative will work in tandem with Tennessee Promise and will provide $8.5 million to identify and support the college education of 1,000 high school seniors and college freshman who are willing to commit to teaching in a Tennessee public school.