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Tennesseeís Student Aid Program for Low-Income Students Leaves Thousands of Eligible Students Unfunded Each Year

Nashville, TN—In the last decade, the number of students benefiting from the Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA) grant declined by 6% while the program left more than 517,000 eligible low-income students unfunded, according to a new report released today by the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA).  
Investing in Educational Opportunity: Strengthening Tennessee’s Commitment to Low-Income Students and their Families is the first study to examine the 34-year history of the TSAA program.  This program provides the state’s lowest income population—the majority from families that earn less than $25,000 per year—with financial assistance to attend college in
 “As a result of this program, thousands of low-income students have been able to participate in higher education,” said Dr. Claude Pressnell, Jr., President of TICUA. “However, this report also shows the tremendous loss of talent when thousands of low-income students choose not to enroll in college due to financial barriers.”
From 1996-2005, the report finds that over 100,000 young adults in the state did not enroll in college because of financial barriers due to the under funding of this critical program.  Over this same ten-year period, close to 84,000 eligible students with a family income of zero went unfunded by this program, according to the report. 
The report also finds that despite improvements in award value—the TSAA grant covers less than one-quarter of the cost of attendance at four-year colleges and universities in the state.
The report notes that of those students that currently receive a TSAA grant, only 25% (or 4,716 students) also receive the state’s new lottery scholarship award. 
“It is important to recognize that the new lottery scholarship award and the TSAA award target two different groups of students,” said Pressnell.  “State policy makers need to understand that the lottery scholarship does not replace the need for additional support for the state’s neediest students.”
This report makes recommendations to state policy makers on how to fully fund the TSAA program in the future. The report outlines several long-term options for fully funding the program, including: increasing the annual funding of this program by 15%; using the interest from the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program until the legislature is able to
contribute additional dollars on an annual basis; dedicating an income stream to supporting the program. According to the report, for every $20 million invested in the program, the program can serve an additional 10,000 eligible low-income students with a TSAA grant.   
The final recommendation to state policy leaders is to legislatively mandate that any remaining funds from the program will be allowed to carry forward to the next year for program use.  Last year, the report notes, if the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation had been able to spend all of the dollars allocated to the program, an additional 1,100 students would have been served by the TSAA program.
Funding for the TSAA program is provided annually by the Tennessee General Assembly.  Since the program’s inception in 1972, over $500 million has been contributed to this program and served over 523,000 grant recipients, according to the report. Funding for the program is dispersed to students on a first-come, first-serve basis.  
Investing in Educational Opportunity: Strengthening Tennessee’s Commitment to Low-Income Students and their Families reflects data collected from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation and the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP). For additional copies of the report, please go to: www.ticua.org
TICUA membership includes 2 two-year colleges, 32 four-year colleges and universities, and 3 professional colleges. TICUA engages Tennessee's private colleges and universities to work collaboratively in areas of public policy, cost containment, and professional development to better serve the state and its citizens.  For more information about TICUA, please visit our
website at www.ticua.org.