Changes to the Lottery Scholarship are Good Education Policy
Dr. Claude O. Pressnell, Jr-
President, Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities
June 2, 2011
With the ever-changing environment in higher education the idea of flexible student aid, or ‘flex-aid’ is good policy. Governor Bill Haslam’s initiative changes the Tennessee Hope Lottery Scholarship to allow students to use their scholarship whenever they need it throughout the year. In the past, students were restricted to using the Hope scholarship only during the traditional fall and spring semesters and not during the summer. With the growing demand to accelerate college completion, the ability to use the scholarship in the summer is a huge financial relief to an increasing number of students.
In order to afford summer usage of the scholarship, Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly had to reinstitute the 120 college credit hour cap on the use of the scholarship. The 120 hour cap was on the lottery scholarship from the program’s inception but was replaced with a five year timeframe in 2008. The new flex-aid provision keeps the five year limit and re-establishes the 120 hour limit.
It takes 120 hours to complete most bachelor’s degrees at a Tennessee public university. For those few degrees that take more than 120 hours to complete, the scholarship is adjusted to cover the additional number of hours it takes to finish those programs of study. College credits earned through Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, or Dual Credit do not count against the 120 hour limit.
The Governor and the Tennessee General Assembly are making a clear statement: The Hope Scholarship will be available to any qualifying student during any semester for the time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree at a public university. That is a huge commitment to the students of Tennessee.
This change will accommodate those students choosing to accelerate their time to graduation by taking courses in the summer. For those students choosing the traditional two-semester per year path, they can continue to do that as well.
For example, if a highly motivated student chooses to attend Lipscomb University’sEducationNow fast track program, she will take 15 hours each semester during her freshman fall, spring and summer terms and the Hope Scholarship will be available each of the three semesters. During her sophomore year, she will take 18 hours during the fall and spring, then 15 in the summer and, once again, the Hope Scholarship will be available all three semesters. During her final year, she will take 18 hours in the fall, bringing her total credit hours to 114 and will still have the Hope Scholarship available for her final semester of 18 hours because she did not cross the 120 hour threshold in the fall. Consequently, she will have the Hope Scholarship to use each of her eight semesters for 132 hours and will have graduated in three years. That is a remarkable benefit.
Conversely, if a student chooses to take four, or even five years and not take courses in the summer, he may do so and have the Hope Scholarship available as long as he does not cross the 120 hour threshold. It’s important to note that a student remains eligible for the scholarship for any subsequent semester provided he has not crossed either the five year limit or the 120 hour cap. So, for example, if a student has completed the first semester of his fifth year with 119 hours, he still has another semester of eligibility.
This “flex-aid” idea allows students to attend a private or public college or university at a pace that best fits their needs. Students choosing to accelerate their studies by taking summer courses may now have their scholarship available to them, whereas in the past they were deprived of the Hope Scholarship during the summer term. Those students choosing to stay on the traditional path may continue to do so as well without losing the Hope Scholarship.
For all the criticism this change has received, it may very well prove to be one of the best modifications made to the Hope Scholarship program.