On Wednesday, The State House of Representatives passed legislation to provide for college scholarships for approximately 12,000 Tennesseans.
"This bill helps nearly 12,000 Tennesseans achieve the American dream of earning a college degree," said Representative Frank Buck. "By helping more students retain the HOPE Scholarship, we're going to improve Tennessee's graduation rates and erase college debt for thousands of local students."
The new legislation places $359.5 million of lottery reserve funds into an endowment that is expected to produce recurring revenues of over $27.5 million. These revenues will fund the expansion of Tennessee's HOPE Scholarship, reducing the retention GPA from 3.0 to 2.75 for the first three years of college, followed by a per semester minimum of 3.0 for every semester after a student's junior year. The funds will also allow students to extend the amount of time they may maintain the HOPE Scholarship to 5 years.
"So many things can happen during a student's college experience, and to allow one bad semester to ruin a child's long term future is against everything that the HOPE Scholarship stands for," Buck said. "With these recurring dollars, we can help nearly 4,000 students a year retain their scholarship and continue their education. Many Tennesseans have to work to get through college and we're going to help these folks."
In addition to the expansion of the HOPE Scholarship, the bill also funds up to 5,000 need-based TSAC grants designed to help students who currently qualify for financial assistance. The new legislation will also fund the "Helping Heroes Act of 2008," a grant service that will assist returning Tennessee soldiers from Irag and Afghanistan with college and cover the shortfall that is currently created by the federal GI bill.
"Our brave men and women returning home from war deserve a fully-funded college education and thanks to the Helping Heroes Act, Tennessee soldiers will," Buck said.
Upon signature by Governor Phil Bredesen, the new legislation is slated to go into effect on July 1st, 2008.