Tennessee GOP backs off bill to reduce HOPE scholarships

Tennessee GOP backs off bill to reduce HOPE scholarships

March 7th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslem addresses those in attendance at MTSU for the signing or bill which will enable Hope Scholarship recipients at all state universities to use, as full-time students, up to $2,000 per semester in fall, spring, and summer semesters up to a 120-credit hour cap. Photo by Jim Davis/DNJ

NASHVILLE - Faced with criticisms from Democrats and soaring lottery profits, Senate majority Republicans today reversed course on a bill that would cut some students' lottery scholarships in order to save money for the state.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Delores Gresham, R-Somerville, amended the proposal in which tougher eligibility standards in 2015-2016 would have cut $4,000 scholarship awards in half for an estimated 5,000 new students who failed to score a 21 on their ACT plus achieve a 3.0 grade point average.

Currently, students must attain one or the other.

Republicans said the move was necessary because the lottery has been running a deficit for several years. But Democrats criticized the move because lottery profits are up by about $10 million. On Tuesday, Tennessee Lottery officials announced the best month ever in terms of sales.

"If that were to be sustained that would take significant edge off of our dipping into reserves," Gresham told committee members today.

The amendment provides a trigger. If profits in 2011-2012 exceeds 2010-2011 and grow by $10 million, which they are, and if profits grow at all in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, then reductions would be repealed.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.