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.