MTSU President Concerned About Unintended Consequences Of "Tennessee Promise"

Feb 26, 2014


The president of Middle Tennessee State University says he's all for expanding access to higher education in the state. But Sidney McPhee also says the proposed "Tennessee Plan" that aims to make two-year college tuition free for students could hurt some students at four-year institutions.

McPhee made his comments to the Nashville Tennessean on Tuesday. He said colleges and universities that attract students from lower-income families could feel the sting of the Tennessee Promise's funding model.

The plan put forth by Governor Bill Haslam in this month's State of the State address called for a program that would make education at a two-year community or technical college free for its students. To pay for this plan, Haslam turned to the state's education lottery program. The Tennessee Promise's costs would be taken out of lottery revenues. To compensate, Hope scholarship money for college freshmen and sophomores would be reduced from $4,000 a year to $3,000. Scholarship money for juniors and seniors would increase.

The key difference is in that thousand-dollar drop from freshmen and sophomores, McPhee said. Putting that burden back on students and their families could prove a tough hurdle, McPhee added, and could cause some students to consider dropping out or forgo attending a four-year university.

Not every university shares McPhee's outlook. Not long after Governor Haslam's announcement, University of Tennessee administrator Katie High told Knoxville's WBIR-TV that the effect of the Tennessee Promise would vary from campus to campus. High said she thought UT could come up with a solution to help students who were affected by the drop in Hope scholarship grant money.