NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to provide a free community college education for all of the state’s high school graduates is moving forward in the Senate.
The "Tennessee Promise" legislation advanced out of a Senate committee this week. The House version of the bill is also advancing.
But legislators and higher education officials are pondering whether the initiative might adversely impact higher education funding. In a recent committee meeting, Senator Joey Hensley asked if admitting more students might result in a drop in graduation rates system-wide.
It’s an important question because the State of Tennessee now awards higher education funding based on retention rates. Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan agreed Tennessee Promise could result in a loss of funding.
“Fundamentally I agree with the idea that the students who will be reached by Tennessee Promise, that currently are not going to post-secondary education, are more likely to be underprepared.”
State funding for Tennessee higher education has fallen dramatically in recent years, and appropriations in the governor’s proposed budget for the coming school year are already well below what administrators had hoped for.