Randy's got this story on the home page, under the "TN Politics" tab, but I'll place it more prominently here in case the story affects as many of us as I think it might...

Yesterday, the legislature revised the state's HOPE lottery scholarship rules to extend financial support to students through their first 120 semester hours of college, rather than through the first four years of their studies.

Tom Humphrey notes that students generally graduate having earned about 133 semester hours, so it appears that some (many?) students could run out of financial support via the lottery before they complete their studies. Ouch.

On a brighter note, the legislation will also cause the lottery's funding to become available for students' summer coursework, which had not been the case to date.

(That change came too late for this household. On Monday of this past week, we paid $1700 for our UT-Chattanooga student, at home in Knoxville for the summer, to take three UTC on-line classes this summer. Sigh.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture

KNS posters just don't get it

As usual, posters in the KNS comment thread on this story just don't get it.

When Tennessee's Democrat-led legislature adopted our HOPE lottery scholarship program, they did so for the benefit of the state's "best and brightest," their concern being that many well-prepared high school graduates could not gain access to higher education due to lack of financial means.

Now, the state's Republican-led legislature has recast the program as one to support just those able to row their own boats through that last year of college, clearly impacting on a good portion of our "best and brightest" who may not be able to do that.

The problem was that lottery revenues from ticket sales are down. Therefore a tighter definition of just which high school graduates comprise our "best and brightest" was in order.

Since this legislature failed to do that, the liklihood of failing our very "best and brightest" now exists.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


If their recent behavior toward teachers is any indication, I suppose it's the opinion of this Republican-led legislature that schools' colleges of education, my daughter's major, are also "easy."

However, many education majors, my daughter included, are being advised to earn multiple credentials to improve their employability at graduation. My daughter, for instance, is pursuing triple credentials in elementary ed, middle school ed, and English as a second language.

That's yet a third reason she will have earned at least 161 semester hours by graduation (assuming four more semesters at 15 hours per).

There seems to be a disconnect between legislators and universities' student advisement offices, eh?

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Another explanation for 133 hrs at graduation

Because they change majors (and colleges) like shoes.

I'm sure there's some of that, metulj, but students' more frequent AP and dual-enrollment credit hours earned in high school may also be impacting that average of 133 semester hours at graduation.

Consider my daughter, who--after completing her on-line coursework this summer--will have earned 101 semester hours (and she would have earned more hours than that, had the university not capped at 24 the volume of AP semester hours she could bring from high school). She has always taken advantage of UT's 12 hour cap on tuition charges, too, taking 19 semester hours for the cost of 12 during the spring semester just ended.

With the help of her high school AP/dual-enrollment hours AND overload coursework on reaching college, then, she technically became a senior during the spring semester of just her second year on campus.

My assumption, of course, is that students' semester hours earned in high school via AP and most dual-enrollment classes would not apply toward this new 120 cap, since lottery monies don't pay for hours of that sort.

However, in my daughter's case, she did earn her dual-enrollment semester hours by attending Pellissippi State, during the summers following her sophomore and junior years of high school, via the lottery's dual-enrollment grant.

Hmmm. I wonder if just those credits--earned during high school before she arrived to her 4 year campus BUT paid for via another lesser-known lottery scholarship program--would count toward the 120 hour cap? I'll have to check.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Public policy that encourages student mediocrity

Well, thanks for the compliment, metulj, but I really wasn't fishing for it.

The point I meant to make is that I believe the lottery scholarship should cover four years of students' college costs, period.

Students could then take from those four years the maximum possible educational opportunity and colleges could then graduate the strongest possible graduates.

In contrast, this legislative action suggests that whatever students have learned in the course of completing 120 semester hours is good enough for us.

I note the same woeful public policy bent with regard to secondary education.

I'll never forget sitting through a Knox County school board meeting at which staff and administrators at West High advocated for funding to implement an International Baccalaureate program. One school board member said "well, we obviously can't do that sort of thing at every high school." I sat there thinking "and why the hell NOT--at the other end of the performance spectrum, we're funding five magnet schools and 14 Project Grad schools!"

Then too, I've had people suggest to me that it's appropriate for KCS to pass on to parents the costs of their children's participation in high school AP coursework because "they're earning college credit." I say K-12 ed has a responsibility to fund every student at his or her performance level for 13 years (including kindergarten), period.

It seems to me that both brands of public policy, at the K-12 level and at the post-secondary level, cap students' intellectual curiousity rather than encourage it.

In either K-12 or or post-secondary settings, it can't be a good thing to cap students' educational attainment opportunity at levels many can and want to surpass.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Okay, just one last post on this subject to recount for you how I just explained to my husband this legislative session's impact to our child:

STUDENT #1 had a high school GPA of 3.0 and an ACT score of 21.

He is now moving through college at the rate of 12 hours per semester, the minimum number he can complete and be considered a full-time student for the purpose of qualifying for a lottery scholarship.

He has a college GPA of 2.75, so he can just barely receive that lottery scholarship.

STUDENT #2, ours, had a high school GPA of over 4.0 and an ACT score in the 30s.

She is now moving through college at the rate of 15 to 19 hours per semester.

She has a college GPA of 4.0.

Under new legislation, the Tennessee HOPE lottery scholarship will continue to fund STUDENT #1 for four full years.

This same new legislation will boot STUDENT #2 out the door in three years or less.

So that, under other new legislation, she may immediately assume her role in the workplace at Halliburton Elementary, working 80 hours per week for $9.80 per hour.

I think I'm going to be sick...

fischbobber's picture

On the other hand

Your daughter is clearly bright enough to abandon her present career path and just cash in at a job that's only reward is money. Self fulfillment and helping fellow members of the human race and doing the right thing are SO overrated. Who needs sleep with a clean conscience? ;^)

Tamara Shepherd's picture

I suspect it's unconstitutional

I just don't think the answer to flat lottery ticket sales is to award larger scholarship amounts under stricter qualifying criteria for shorter terms (120 semester hours), nor to vary those qualifying criteria based on subjective analyses of which majors are "easy."

Where this new law is concerned, it's the time and the money that's become inadequate.

So neither is the answer what we got, namely to award these same scholarship amounts for shorter terms (120 semester hours), expecially given the extraordinarily low academic standards presently in place to determine the awards.

Representative Harry Brooks' bill had it right at the get-go: Raise at the front end the academic standard applicable to receiving this same size scholarhip for this same duration.

In the clusterfuc* that followed, this particular yehaw legislature caused his suggestion to morph into a law that penalizes students carrying excessive courseloads or pursuing double majors, pulls the rug out from under these same "best and brightest" of our students after as little as two years on campus, and furthermore imposes these changes to retroactive effect.

From the KNS article linked above:

The changes will go into place beginning in the fall of 2012, and scholarship recipients who started school in the fall of 2009 or later will be bound by the new provisions.

The law in effect in the fall of 2009 represented a contract under which tens of thousands of Tennessee students chose their colleges, their majors, and their specific class schedules.

Students who might have chosen private colleges--where institutional aid is higher--instead chose public colleges because of the lottery scholarship's provisions.

Students who might have chosen a single major and the specific classes to fulfill that major--and would therefore be on track to graduate with that major now--instead chose double- and even triple-majors, now leaving them with course credits that are all over the board.

The state of Tennessee has breached its contract with tens of thousands of students.

These students must now abandon any plan for a double-major and the career for which their coursework would prepare them, or else complete what they started in the fall of 2009 at their own cost. And they've had no warning whatsoever that their plans were to be usurped in this manner.

The issue of adopting public education policy to encourage mediocrity notwithstanding, I also beleive this aspect of the law--that it is retroactive in nature--is unconstitutional.

Tennessee Constitution

Article I--Declaration of Rights

Section 11. That laws made for the punishment of acts committed previous to the existence of such laws, and by them only declared criminal, are contrary to the principles of a free government; wherefore no ex post facto law shall be made.

You can bet I'll be phoning an attorney on Monday to begin my inquiry--and not just on behalf of my own student.

Mello's picture

Let's talk about the actual ballot of Nov 2002

let's look at the ballot wording that the voters approved in Nov 2002 which changed the state constitution to allow the lottery in the first place.

Are lottery sales really down or have 'excess' funds been over promised?

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Speaking of ballots...

...it's this same constitutional provision, that no law may be made to retroactive effect, that meant Knox County's ballot initiative to adopt term limits did not and could not apply to then-seated commissioners.

Hence for commissioners like Horner, Moody and others (as well as our sheriff), the clock didn't begin running until the next election of 1998.

Those longterm officeholders were therefore able to run again in the local elections of 1998 and 2002. They just couldn't run in 2006.

I'm pretty darn sure this lottery scholarship change cannot apply retroactively to students who began receiving it in the fall of 2009.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


My understanding, Mello, is that those "excess funds" haven't much materialized.

I think just this initiative to expand pre-K is underway, but that little or nothing has materialized to subsidize afterschool programs or school construction (the other applications for "excess funds" stipulated in the bill).

Mello's picture

I do believe they have been

I do believe they have been spent ( or promised ) according to this AG Opinion

And Tamara, after reading this report and the AG Opinion linked above, I do believe they are going to try to include those dual enrollment credits as well as raising the GAMS requirements.

In our house, the most common comment about all this is "WTF did we talk the kidlet into staying in TN to go to college..."

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Wow. In my quick skim of that AG opinion it sure looked to me like they'd used those "excess" funds on all manner of expenses other than those stipulated in the original legislation. I'm surprised our AG didn't call the lottery commission out on more of them...

Nevertheless, that "excess" is, by definition, what's left over after all qualifying students have received the scholarships promised to them under the law's then-applicable provisions.

Therefore, I don't see how any errant spending of that "excess" could cause less funding to be available for lottery scholarships, nor how it could cause the lottery commission to now be advocating for more stringent scholarship qualifying criteria/renewal criteria.

It seems that errant spending of the "excess" would only cause less funding to be available for those K-12 needs--preK, afterschool programs, and school construction--stipulated in the original bill to be supported.

And therefore, I do trust that the lottery commission's motivation in advocating for more stringent scholarship qualifying criteria really is rooted in flat ticket sales.

As to the propriety of changing scholarship renewal requirements for the General Assembly Merit Scholarship (GAMS), I have to agree with their apparent thought to boost the GPA required for renewal from 2.75 to 3.0-ish, which looks to be more in line with what other southern states require.

Then too, top-tier institutional scholarships available to this same student demographic require that GPA--a 3.0--or higher. I'm thinking my daughter's Chancellor's Scholarship, UT's top-tier, applies a renewal guideline of 3.5 GPA?

(I skipped around reading that lottery commission report, too, so I haven't yet found your reference to dual-enrollment. Thanks for the link--I want to go back and read all of it.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Well, I was too agitated to wait until Monday to begin my inquiry on the constitutionality of this bill.

Last night, I left messages with Governor Haslam's office and KNS editor Jack McElroy. I also called and spoke directly with KNS staff at their "news tip" number.

This morning, I also left messages with a local attorney I know (whom you also know) and Representative Harry Brooks, whose original proposal was mangled to produce the bill passed.

Surely there is some oversight within the governor's office to preclude his adding his signature to an unconstitutional law.

Until I see the question raised by media, though, I'll be on the job--and will keep you posted of my efforts.

Clearly, mine is not the only household to be impacted to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars if this bill stands.

Mello's picture

not sure on the added cost

after reading this new report on TN college degrees and job demand our cost estimate now includes changing majors.....

Tamara Shepherd's picture


All I know is that, dependent on how this law would treat students' dual-enrollment coursework in high school paid for with the lottery's dual-enrollment grant, my college student could lose lottery funding as early as the fall 2011 semester--coming up in 90 days.

My student relied on the lottery's stated funding provisions to select her college, her major, and her specific coursework.

Furthermore, her student advisors--paid professionals within her university--also counseled her in these decisions dependent on their identical understanding of the lottery's provisions.

If we find that my student has just one semester, not four, in which to complete the triple major she began pursuing two years ago, she can't complete it.

Neither can she--in just the one semester possibly remaining funded by a lottery scholarship--narrow her coursework such that she would be able to graduate with just a single major following the fall semester. Since she has been pursuing this triple major, her completed coursework is presently all over the board.

Whether she attempted to complete her triple major or whether she attempted to now redirect her focus to a single major, this bill would cost our household--and many others, I'm sure--many thousands of dollars.

Students (and their student advisors) have already acted upon the provisions of the former law in their decision-making.

Surely, surely we will find that that law--that contract-- can't be changed to retroactive effect.

Mello's picture

Now I have a math question

Standard HOPE scholarship is 4K a year
GAMS scholarship is 1K a year in addition to the HOPE

I can not find any TN four year school that half of the combo HOPE/GAMS @ $2,500 is enough to pay for any kid's full time ( 12 hours )tuition and fees-per semester.

Now I can't see how my kid will be charged with the HOPE/GAMS actually providing more than 12 credits per semester. I not even sure that it covered 10 hours! ( but I am just too busy to pull out the statements to check it....)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Maybe I'm just cross-eyed from spending so much time at the state legislature's website, Mello, but I'm not grasping what your question is...

Mello's picture

no- I am cross-eyed from painting ...

I am simply reviewing the spin on this. The HOPE at 4K a year is not enough to pay for 120 credit hours in any state four year college. Correct? Even adding in the GAMS, 5K a year is not enough to pay fees and tuition on 120 credit hours at any state four year college over the course of four years. So, how many credit hours does the HOPE actually cover if the average cost of all the four years state schools is considered?

My reason for reviewing some of the spin is because my kid is in a different situation than yours ( and probably nearly every other GAMS scholar because he has no other scholarship money.) He has just HOPE/GAMS and a boat load of student loans.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Tuition and fees for $5Kyr

Oh, I've gotcha now...

No, I guess no school in either the UT or the TBR systems charges annual tuition and fees at or lower than the $5K the basic HOPE and GAMS scholarships combined would produce annually.

Yeah, it would be interesting to calculate what the HOPE/GAMS don't pay at the various tuition rates in effect among our public colleges.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Update--link to bill / which credits count toward cap

I note that I didn't previously reference this bill by number, nor provide any link to its text (as that info was provided in the KNS story I previously linked).

To clarify, we're talking about SB1529/HB2010, here.

If interested, you'll probably find that the Bill Summary available at the site makes for easier reading.

Meanwhile, I wanted to tell you that I've received a return call from the TN Higher Ed Commission (THEC) to confirm my assumption that any college credits students bring from high school, whether Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment, do NOT count toward the 120 credit hour cap enacted in this bill.

In fact, those Dual Enrollment credits do NOT count toward the cap even if the student used the lottery's Dual Enrollment Grant while in high school to obtain the credits.

ONLY credit hours earned after the student graduated from high school and enrolled in a college or university will count toward the cap--except that, per Amendment 2, Section 6, credit hours the same such student earned in summer 2011 will NOT toward the cap, either (because as of earlier this week, the start of the summer semester, the law in place didn't allow lottery funds to be applied to summer coursework).

(More to follow.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Update--constitutionality question

I have now left messages with several legislators and three attorneys to ask whether this bill might be unconstitutional per the TN Constitution's Article I, Section 11.

Among legislators (and a couple of other employees in government) to have returned my calls, I've gotten conflicting answers.

A couple have said "no," too many checks and balances exist in the process of vetting a bill for anything unconstitutional to possibly pass the legislature. One also believes that Article I, Section 11 applies only to criminal law, not civil law (and the text does seem to read that way).

However, a couple of other legislators just laughed, and conceded that the body had passed unconstitutional bills before.

None of the three attorneys I contacted has yet returned my call. One of those was an attorney who had previously led me to believe that Article I, Section 11 applies to both criminal and civil matters, so I'm especially interested in seeking clarification from him.

I might have mentioned in my above post that the party I spoke with at THEC said he "disagrees" that the bill might be unconstitutional, but he didn't explain to me why that might be.

Also, KNS editor Jack McElroy returned my call as well. While Mr. McElroy didn't necessarily indicate that KNS would report further on this subject, he did indicate that they would "look into it."

That would be great, and would allow me to cease running up my long distance phone bill any further. I may need to set that $$$ aside for tuition, eh?

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I've gotta share with you a call I just got from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC), whom I hadn't called but to whom I guess some legislator passed on my name and contact info.

That caller rehashed all that the THEC caller had already confirmed for me, then the conversation took this twist:

TSAC: You know, we've had this 120 hour cap on the scholarship previously. We didn't lift it until 2008.

Me: Yes, and when that change was made in 2008, what effective date did it carry?

TSAC: It went into effect for the following fall semester.

Me: And when it went into effect, did the lottery commission reach back two years to issue refund checks to all those parents who had previously paid tuition for their students' credit hours beyond 120, or did the lottery commission make the change applicable only to students looking forward.

TSAC: (Silence)

Me: So why is the lottery commission reaching back two years now? Shouldn't this change apply only to students starting college in the fall of 2011?

TSAC: Yes, well.....(Silence)

redmondkr's picture

This all makes my head hurt

This all makes my head hurt Tam. I need a beer.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

This is what stinks

Sorry, Kenny--I know you personally aren't trying to get any kids through college, but I thought if I shared here what I'm learning, as I'm learning it, maybe I can save some other parents all these long distance phone calls I've made!

I'm somewhat relieved to learn that students' AP/Dual Enrollment credits from high school, as well as any credits they're earning this summer, are off the table.

Still, that the lottery commission has reached back two full years with its effective date on this bill amounts to little more than changing the rules in the middle of the game.

And that stinks.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

And this stinks, too

From Incentive to Complete? Aligning the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Program with Tennessee’s College Completion Agenda (by the Higher Education Working Group of the Lottery Stabilization Task Force, February 2011), pdf page 21:

Lottery scholarships pay for remedial & developmental (R&D) classes for 19% of Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS) recipients.

We CAN dole out lottery scholarship monies for some students to complete high school coursework in college, but we CAN NOT allow monies for any high-performing students willing and able to take overload hours and/or pursue multiple majors?

Why are students with deficiencies in their high school coursework getting lottery scholarships in the first place?

Was this practice ended this legislative session, I hope? I haven't yet found any indication of it.

What happened to that lottery scholarship mission of "keeping the best and brightest in Tennessee?"

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I understand, Toby.

However, on reading this CCTA legislation passed in January 2010 and this task force's recommendations on how to implement it, my expectation is that colleges in the TBR and UT systems will soon revise their institutional aid to also abandon "four year" scholarships in favor of "120 credit hour" scholarships, thus possibly lessening students' ability to pursue the double majors that might, in fact, improve their employability after graduation.

Meanwhile, I'm pleased to learn that my own students' 30 hours of AP/dual enrollment and her 8 hours of summer coursework will not count toward this 120 hour cap now applicable to her lottery scholarship.

My student, then, has not been penalized by this change as I had earlier feared and she may still potentially earn a bachelors degree reflecting three majors and up to 158 credit hours (38 + 120), all without exhausting her lottery funding.

Lots will depend, of course, on her university being able to provide the coursework she needs at the specific times she needs to enroll in those courses, which we both know is a shaky proposition.

And on behalf of other students more adversely impacted by this 120 hour cap on lottery funding, though, I still protest that the legislature changed the rules in the middle of students' game.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Drivers behind TELS changes this legislative session

Okay, I'm slowly piecing together the drivers behind changes adopted to the TN Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS) this legislative session.

You will recall that in that stealth "extraordinary session" the state legislature undertook in January 2010 to adopt the TN First to the Top Act affecting K-12 ed, they also adopted a second piece of legislation affecting higher ed.

The higher ed piece adopted, which we never discussed here at KV, was entitled the "Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010" (CCTA), here.

Within the CCTA was a directive for the lottery commission to cause the TELS to begin focusing not just on boosting college enrollment, but on boosting productive college enrollment that would more likely result in an increased number of college grads statewide. The directive centered in part on concern that the TELS had become focused too much on creating students' access to higher ed with too little regard for how those students gaining access might also graduate.

(In a quick aside, there was also within the CCTA a directive that modifies somewhat a previous practice I objected to, linked above, in that:

Lottery scholarships pay for remedial & developmental (R&D) classes for 19% of Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS) recipients.

Although the CCTA didn't make any change to the TELS directly, the new law did provide that, effective July 1 2012, neither our TN Board of Regents (TBR) colleges nor our UT system will any longer offer remedial or developmental courses. Instead, coursework of this sort is to be delivered only through our two-year colleges and our four-year colleges may coordinate with them. For the present, though, I *think* the TELS continues to fund this sort of coursework, albeit scholarship funding will presumably be routed in the near future to just students attending two-year colleges.)

Back to how the state has begun implementing the provisions of the CCTA: A "Higher Education Working Group of the Lottery Stabilization Task Force" convened and in February 2011 issued its report entitled "Incentive to Complete? Aligning the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Program with Tennessee’s College Completion Agenda," linked above and again here.

The task force was charged with making recommendations as to what changes to the TELS might fuel improvements in higher ed in four areas, namely:

1) Increased degree production
2) Better student retention rates
3) Shortened Time-to-Degree timeframes
$) Simplified student transfer (between two year and four year schools)

You'll find the group's recommendations summarized tidily in an appendix beginning on pdf page 18.

I'm still reading...

Tamara Shepherd's picture

"...the emerging national productivity agenda."

Yes, for students choosing a single major, I can see how either changing one's major OR, or, or being unable to enroll in a particular class at the juncture necessary would be a big problem under this 120 hour cap.

For students choosing a double major, though, I forsee education majors and liberal arts majors being more severely impacted by the cap.

Education majors are just recently advised to pursue multiple credentials to improve their employability after graduation, while liberal arts majors have long been advised to couple their interests with "something more realistic."

How might this new cap on scholarship funding serve to produce more and better-qualified teachers, a goal these "education reform" types claim to have set?

How might the cap encourage students' continued interest in the liberal arts, an arena in which academicians have never much pounded the "marketability" drum?

And before you answer, note this excerpt from the report that lottery task force produced (pdf page 5):

During Tennessee’s Extraordinary Session for Education Reform Legislation in early January 2010, the 106th General Assembly passed the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 (CCTA), which effectively established increased educational attainment as the state’s primary need relative to higher education. This productivity initiative was the result of a number of discussions on higher education reform between the previous administration and campus and system leaders, legislative leaders and national higher education policy experts and was influenced by the emerging national productivity agenda.

(This is Arne Duncan we're talking about, so I predict the slow asphyxiation of Colleges of Education and Colleges of Liberal Arts. And maybe look for that College of Business you bitch about to grow?!)

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Quality vs. quantity

Aside from your confidence that this "ed reform" movement at the post-secondary level won't impact on enrollment levels within Colleges of Arts and Sciences, I don't see that we disagree on very much (and yes, your link concerning the rigor within Colleges of Business is compelling--I humbly withdraw my earlier assertion that your observation was "subjective").

I also opposed the state lottery--and had a sign on my front lawn--because I thought (and still think) that instead implementing a state income tax would have likely resulted in more funding for higher ed, lower college tuition costs, and higher levels of institutional aid at our public colleges.

I also thought that the sort of institutional aid our public colleges did extend and would likely have expanded following implementation of a state income tax was/would have been more truly merit based.

In contrast, the lottery's scholarships have never been truly merit based.

In its earlier rendition, the lottery commission created a program focused on boosting college enrollment rates, but attaching little importance to the qualification of enrollees.

In this latest rendition, it seems the lottery commission has tweaked the program to focus on boosting college completion rates, but attaching little importance to the qualification of enrollees OR the qualification of the graduates the reincarnated program will produce.

To wit, both the earlier rendition and this one seem more focused on quantity than quality.

Legislation passed this session did not alter requirements for obtaining a HOPE scholarship--namely a 21 on the ACT and a 2.75 GPA to obtain the funding--in spite of the fact that 47% of students so inadequately prepared for college lose their HOPE funding by the end of their freshman year (see pdf page 10 of the task force report). This task force says it's costing the program $47 million annually, so I'll suggest it's just water poured through a sieve.

What's worse, legislation passed this session did not abolish the lottery commission's ACCESS grant, either. That program provides initial funding to students with as low as an 18 on the ACT and a 2.75 GPA--in spite of the fact that "a very small percentage" of these students are capable of going on to receive a HOPE scholarship for further tuition funding (see pdf page 20 of the task force report), so I'll suggest this component of the program is only water jet sprayed through a sieve!

To me, then, this 120 hour cap just looks like more of the same misguided ideology that plays to the lowest common denominator and ultimately values, like I said, quantity over quality. This is why I supported Harry Brooks' proposal to instead address flat lottery revenues with slightly higher scholarship qualifying criteria.

Access to higher ed is exceedingly important, but it starts with ensuring students' adequate preparation on the front end, in K-12.

Which is precisely why, a decade or so back, TN PTA originally opposed the lottery scholarship program, and then tempered its position to support a lottery scholarship program that allocated to K-12 75% of the revenues produced and to college scholarships just 25%.

Sure wish they'd pushed it harder...

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Cohen's read on lottery scholarship changes needed

I just stumbled across this May 5 editorial by U. S. Rep. Steve Cohen--who was formerly Tennessee Sen. Steve Cohen-- the man who fought for a decade to bring a state lottery to Tennessee.

Interestingly, he reiterates several of the points Mello and I have raised here.

Cohen shares two of Mello's observations, namely that 1) lottery scholarships are funding an ever lower percentage of tuition costs and 2) we have reason to question both the volume of lottery revenues being deemed "excess" AND the manner in which that "excess" is recently being spent:

The state constitution requires lottery funds go first to scholarships, before pre-kindergarten, before capital outlay and before funds are designated “excess.” Also, the original plan was for HOPE scholarships to cover a student’s full tuition. However, lottery scholarships have never been fully funded and have declined from three-quarters scholarships to covering only about 66 percent of tuition.

Despite awarding only partial scholarships, lottery funds have been diverted to other programs and pet projects by deeming lottery funds as “excess." A prime example of this is the $90 million appropriated to “green” schools, over half of which remains unused but has not been returned to the scholarship program. When considering the future of lottery scholarships, everything should be on the table to ensure the solvency of the program, from those funds deemed “excess” to the costs of operating the lottery, including salaries.

Cohen also shares my observation that eligibility criteria for receiving lottery scholarships are too low:

During the legislative debate, concerns were raised about the possibility of grade inflation, so the requirement for an ACT score was added as a qualification. The scholarship legislation as introduced required a GPA of 3.0 AND a minimum ACT score of 19. Because of political shenanigans, the language was changed to require either a GPA of 3.0 OR an ACT score of 19, meaning that a student who had not performed well in high school but scored a 19 ACT (2 points below the national average) could get a scholarship.

In the succeeding General Assembly, the ACT requirement was raised to 21 which, while an improvement, still permits students to receive a scholarship based on nothing more than an average ACT score. The Tennessee HOPE scholarship is the only college scholarship in the United States based on an average ACT score.

I suspect, then, that Cohen is no happier with the changes made to the scholarships this session than Mello and I are.

Mello's picture

doubling dual enrollment money!

The Johnson City Press is reporting a doubling of dual enrollment money-

One other change to the lottery scholarship concerns dual enrollment classes. These classes are taken by high school juniors and seniors and count toward college credit hours. Currently, students can get grants toward the cost of these classes at the amount of $300 per semester, up to $600 an academic year. The changes allow students to get up to $1,200 per academic year in dual enrollment grants but anything past $1,200 will go against students’ HOPE scholarship when they go to college.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Now, there you go.

This is the kind of spending "on the front end" that can increase the liklihood of a student holding onto his/her HOPE scholarship after graduating from high school.

Too many other of the lottery commission's programs attempt to address students' unpreparedness "on the back end" and only waste scarce funding with that approach.

(And FYI, students who are rising high school juniors--as in the summer following their sophomore year of high school--are eligible to apply for the grant. My older child took a single class of personal interest to her at Pellissippi State that summer, which proved to be a great way for her to have gotten her feet wet on a "real" college campus.)

adanovi's picture

The Hope Scholarship

I would have to go back and look because I am unsure. I think earlier you may have said that 3.0 was, in your opinion, too low of a requirement for obtaining the scholarship. I believe a 3.0 HS GPA is adequate to award a student a scholarship, regardless of their ACT score. Students have a lot to go through in HS biologically and personally. I think any student, regardless of where they went to HS, who obtains an overall 3.0/4.0 deserves to obtain an initial HOPE Scholarship. I don't think they should have had to do dual enrollment or AP or any other specialized program. I think graduating with a 3.0/4.0 should secure them a scholarship. I even agree with bringing the first semester college requirements down, somewhat, to allow for transition to college with the requirement that they have a 3.0 after the completion of their first year.

I do disagree with a blanket ACT or SAT score securing the scholarship without a GPA requirement. Perhaps a sliding scale GPA/college entrance score might help those kids who didn't turn in every single assignment but still understand material or would help kids who do understand material and are committed to school but don't perform as well on high stakes tests. (However, we're in the process of making little test taking engines).

I think Rep. Cohen is concerned about creating a situation where only the financially well off students are going to benefit from this program. I have every confidence that he saw this as an opportunity to help the students of Memphis begin some sort of post-secondary education curriculum.

Although, without too much further delving into my sister's personal situation, I went with her to her community college to beg for any scholarship for her one summer. Meanwhile, I saw students being handed federal dollars hand over fist because they were impoverished minority students that were often single parents.

I have to admit, it is extremely frustrating to watch someone whom I love, who didn't have any children, was married, who had a very very high GPA and was going to help this community college by GRADUATING fail to qualify for even one dollar of any aid, including the HOPE Scholarship. It was even more frustrating to see financial aid officers and school administrators refuse to file appeals for her to receive financial aid, even when she had the documentation to apply for an appeal, simply because they saw her as without need, regardless of her right to have an appeal filed!

Sadly, I even saw a financial aid appeal application from that same school and the student could check any number of reasons why they lost their financial aid and were reapplying to the financial aid office. The very last reason listed on the form was "I failed all my classes." I sat there fighting with myself over the social responsibility that I feel we have to provide and assist with educating those who are most vulnerable while I was so angry that my sister, who'd done what we as a society say are the "right things" couldn't qualify for any money at all!

Anyway, I guess I've gone on about my sister, enough. I fought for the HOPE Scholarship because I thought, at 18, it would be a great thing for our state and yes, I thought I could personally benefit from it or at least my sister would benefit from it. I disregarded those who argued it was "a tax on the poor" because I didn't think people were naive enough to go spend 10 dollars at one time, let alone hundreds or thousands, on a lottery. I have stood in gas station stores and watched people who haven't appeared to have bathed or changed clothes in days buy 20 to 50 dollars worth of lottery tickets and then hours later stood in front of a class of undergraduate students where the majority of students were worried that they have to make that B to keep their scholarship and who were running around with their brand new laptop, brand new cell phones with internet and every app one could think of, and who drove to school in a car that was less than 5 years old. Despite my exuberance over the lottery scholarship being put in place several years ago, I have to question the equity of this situation.

Back to Tamara's specific situation, here are some of my thoughts. 1) A student who is making progress towards graduation with a 3.0 should be able to keep their scholarship all the way through and there should be some leeway in hours. (With all due respect, I once had a legislator say to me that the government's responsibility is to help students obtain the first degree and they are on their own after that. Should the HOPE being paying for double majors or dual degrees?) 2) If a student is taking hours not paid for by HOPE Scholarship, they should not have those hours count against an arbitrary cap in hours. 3) If the Hope Scholarship is applying income caps for "returning adults" then they should also have income caps for those students who are filing FAFSAs with their parent's income data. 4) Legislators need to leave reserves alone. That money is for scholarships. They should have not been allowed to touch "reserves" for at least 10-15 years and every legislator that has approved using "reserves" for anything other than the original purpose is irresponsible.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


You cover a lot here, Angela, so first just these thoughts on some of your observations...

WRT lottery law, legislators had two tasks this past session. They were to:

1) enact changes that would facilitate the lottery commission's again funding all scholarships from current revenue (because they'd begun seeing flat revenue and had therefore begun dipping into reserves to fund scholarships), and

2) enact changes that would help fulfill the goals established in the earlier January 2010 Complete College Tennessee Act (in particular to facilitate through lottery scholarship policy not just "greater college enrollment," but "greater productive college enrollment," as in students apt to retain their scholarships and to ultimately graduate).

Meanwhile, the lottery commission administers a total of eight scholarships, grant, and loan programs.

Only two of the eight, the HOPE and the GAMS, are strictly merit-based.

Among the remaining six, each applies a need-based component, lower academic eligibility requirements, NO academic eligibility requirements, or some combination thereof.

Given legislators’ task to boost productive enrollent, strengthen scholarship retention rates, and boost college grad rates, they should have sought to cull from the lottery commission’s plate the programs and the students that aren’t helping us to accomplish those goals. But they didn’t.

That “Helping Heroes Grant,” for instance carries NO academic eligibility requirements and allows students to renew the grant with as low as a D average. They didn’t touch it.

That one-semester “Access Grant” carries academic eligibility requirements so low that students performing at the 50th percentile on their ACTs can receive it and furthermore only 16% of students receiving it are able to produce the one-time 2.75 GPA necessary to subsequently convert it to a HOPE scholarship for additional semesters. They didn’t touch that one, either.

Instead, they went straight to one of just two strictly merit-based scholarships, namely the HOPE.

And not only did they go after the HOPE’s merit-based applicants first, they also cut funding to the STRONGEST of those applicants, rather than to the weakest.

And not only did they cut funding to the strongest rather than to the weakest, they also cut them to RETROACTIVE effect.

Just two more points here on this cut to HOPE applicants:

1) This question of whether the HOPE should fund overload hours or double majors is moot. Whether a student takes 12 hours or 20, whether a student chooses one major or three, it costs the lottery commission no more. The HOPE “pays” the same flat $4000 annually to every recipient, so it’s only the hard working student who pays her excessive labor and the financially-committed parents who pay the financial shortfall.

2) This question of whether the HOPE should maintain or lower its existing academic eligibility requirements is also moot. We’re LUCKY 45% of freshmen HOPE recipients are washing out to the tune of $47 million wasted every year. Since the lottery commission is already dipping into reserves to fund everyone else, they clearly couldn’t fund these washing out even if they could raise their grades. So if any argument does exist for making cuts to the HOPE via boosting its minimum academic eligibility requirements, it’s that—-unless we cut other scholarship programs that aren't merit-based-—we can’t fund HOPE recipients meeting these lowest of academic eligibility requirements WHETHER OR NOT they’re able to maintain their grades in college.

With this session's legislative change, the HOPE lottery scholarship program has largely ceased to offer any merit-based scholarships at all. It has instead become just a massive and ill-administered entitlement program that fails in any shape, form, or fashion to fulfill the goals established in the Complete College TN Act.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I think Rep. Cohen is concerned about creating a situation where only the financially well off students are going to benefit from this program. I have every confidence that he saw this as an opportunity to help the students of Memphis begin some sort of post-secondary education curriculum.

Well, he wasn't too concerned about it or he would never have proposed a merit-based scholarship program (which is what he originally proposed) financed on the backs of the poor.

(And remind me to tell you later the kinda funny story of how I debated him personally in the Senate chamber, he from the podium and me from his very assigned chair and microphone, during a "mock session" conducted by TN PTA that year!)

But truly, Angela, Cohen has been pushing for higher academic eligibility requirements for the HOPE for years.

If you read his May 5 editorial I posted previously, he applauds the change made a few years back that boosted the minimum ACT required for the HOPE from 19 to 21.

He goes on to endorse another increase in the HOPE's minimum academic eligibility requirement, asserting that "the Tennessee HOPE scholarship is the only college scholarship in the United States based on an average ACT score" (which isn't quite true, I learned recently, but he point is still relatively valid).

More than anyone else, it was Cohen who conceived of and marketed the HOPE program as one to benefit TN's "best and brightest," so I absolutely don't think it was his intention back then (or now) to see the program drained dry by under-qualified scholarship recipients.

In fact, I don't think he even foresaw that other legislators might quickly begin augmenting the lottery commission's offerings with all these ill-conceived and unproductive affiliate scholarship/grant/loan programs.

Anyway, read that editorial here, if you haven't, and see if you don't agree that this is what he's saying.

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