published Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Tennessee task force recommends tougher standards for lottery-funded scholarships

NASHVILLE — Thousands of future Tennessee high school graduates would see their lottery-funded college scholarships cut by 50 percent under recommendations approved Tuesday by the Senate-controlled Lottery Stabilization Task Force.

The bipartisan group voted unanimously to recommend the change be made beginning in 2015. It would reduce by half the $4,000 scholarship awards for students who don’t achieve both a 3.0 or greater grade-point average and at least a 21 score on their ACT tests.

Currently, qualifications for a lottery HOPE scholarship say students can obtain the full scholarship with either a 3.0 GPA or a 21 on their ACT. Now, if they meet only the GPA or the ACT targets, their awards will be reduced to $2,000.

The recommendations now go to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker, and to the Republican-controlled House Education Committee.

Lawmakers are seeking to close a $20 million gap between lottery revenues and scholarships, although critics have argued the scholarship reserve contains $314 million plus a $50 million reserve.

After concerns were expressed by higher education officials, task force members, including Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, voted to recommend changes not take effect in four years. That’s to give parents and students adequate advance notice that it was time to buckle down in course work.

According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission figures, for 2010 the changes would have reduced the number of high school graduates eligible for the full four-year scholarships by 5,257 or 22 percent.

The recommendation also includes a proposal to provide an additional $10 million for needs-based scholarships,.

Students attending two-year colleges would not be affected.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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