To Sell Free Community College Plan, Tennessee Governor Meets Universities In The Middle
Every lawmaker in the chamber stood and applauded as Gov. Bill Haslam described his plan to pay community college tuition for anyone who needs it during his State of the State address in February. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

To Sell Free Community College Plan, Tennessee Governor Meets Universities In The Middle

Every lawmaker in the chamber stood and applauded as Gov. Bill Haslam described his plan to pay community college tuition for anyone who needs it during his State of the State address in February. Credit: Stephen Jerkins
Every lawmaker in the chamber stood and applauded as Gov. Bill Haslam described his plan to pay community college tuition for anyone who needs it during his State of the State address in February. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

Governor Bill Haslam is starting to compromise on his administration’s proposal to pay the full tuition for anyone going to community college.

After he floated the idea during his State of the State Address, Republicans and Democrats praised the concept. But most didn’t yet realize it affected the existing lottery scholarships.

The initial financing plan cut the 4-year tuition aid by $1,000 for freshmen and sophomores. That cut has been trimmed back to $500.

“We are appreciative of Governor Haslam’s willingness to meet us halfway,” says Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the General Assembly to return the 4-year scholarships to their original levels.”

The governor has said from the beginning that he’s open to changing his signature proposal dubbed “Tennessee Promise,” so long as he can still say high school grads can go to community college without paying tuition.

Much of the funding comes from a new endowment that would be created by use more than $300 million from the lottery reserve fund. The rest comes from “back loading” the HOPE scholarship. Since most students don’t make it all four years with the tuition help, this ends up saving millions of dollars.

Here’s the new compromise between universities and the Haslam Administration:

Community College students:

*         Base Hope: $3,000 (up from $2,000)

*         Aspire supplement, for families with a gross adjusted income of less than $36,000: $500 (down from $1,500)

Four-Year students:

*         Base Hope: $3,500 for Freshmen and sophomores and $4,500 for juniors and seniors

*         Aspire Supplement: $1,500 (remains the same as it is currently)

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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