Letter to the Editor: HOPE Scholarship legislation
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 16:04
Kudos go to Tennessee lawmakers for amending a controversial bill that would have raised eligibility requirement standards for the HOPE Scholarship.
If the bill had passed as it was originally written, an estimated 5,000 students across the state would not meet the new eligibility requirements, resulting in a 50% reduction in their HOPE scholarship money, cutting it from $4,000 to $2,000 per year.
These cuts would have a critically negative impact on some UTM students who would not be able to afford the cost of college without the financial help that the HOPE Scholarship provides.
The current eligibility standards for HOPE state that students must graduate from high school with a minimum 3.0 GPA or they must make a minimum score of 21 on the ACT college entrance exam in order to qualify for the full amount of the scholarship.
The new, tougher requirements written in the original bill required students to meet both of those standards—the grade point and the ACT score—in order to qualify for the full amount of $4,000 per year.
Rep. Harry Brooks, a Republican from Knoxville, sponsored the original bill to make eligibility requirements tougher, citing concerns about the long-term solvency of the lottery education reserve fund, even though a report from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) last fall indicated the state’s lottery reserve was able to support the scholarship program into the 2020s.
In the face of recent reports by Tenn. Lottery officials of record ticket sales every month since July 2011 and a report by the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration stating that the state’s lottery reserve fund had more than $350 million at the end of 2011, the bill was rewritten to include the caveat that the eligibility requirements for students will not change if the education reserve fund maintains at least $10 million through 2015.
In light of these facts, we urge Tennessee lawmakers to adopt this common-sense approach to any future legislation that changes the HOPE Scholarship.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!