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Haslam’s plan would punish good students

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Gov. Bill Haslam announced a plan last week that would allow all high school graduates in Tennessee to attend two-year colleges for free. 

On the surface, that sounds great: free community college for everybody! 

But, as is always the case, the money has to come from somewhere. 

And, in this case, the money would be taken from Hope Scholarship funds. 

Currently, students who are awarded the Hope Scholarship (ACT score of 21 or a 3.0 GPA are the requirements) get $4,000 a year toward their college education at a four-year school. 

Under Haslam’s plan, that figure would shrink to $3,000 a year for the first two years of college before rising to $5,000 per year for the final two. 

Either way, that’s $16,000 over four years. 

But parents with kids who have excelled academically will have to come up with an extra $2,000 for the first two years. 

Meanwhile, students who have not met the Hope Scholarship minimum requirements get a free ride at two-year schools. 

Considering a 21 on the ACT or a B average are not what I would call stringent requirements, something doesn’t seem right here. 

The plan essentially makes it more difficult for good students to attend four-year schools. 

In the interest of full disclosure, my daughter is about to graduate from high school and is in line to get the Hope Scholarship. 

When she started high school I told her about the requirements and that if she met them she would be able to attend college. 

For once, it seems as though she heeded some advice from her old man and took care of her end of the bargain by exceeding the Hope Scholarship minimum requirements. 

Now it’s time to figure how to pay for college and $1,000 less per year is not chump change. 

For those who are not aware, getting the Hope Scholarship by no means covers tuition. 

Tuition and fees for one semester at UT-Martin, a popular destination for Tipton County students, are $3,757. And that does not include dorms, books or food, which are around $3,500 combined per semester. 

That means the $2,000 per semester from the Hope Scholarship is just a start. Cutting that back only makes things more difficult for the students who are theoretically the cream of the crop. 

Haslam has argued that, under his plan, students could attend a two-year school first and then transfer to a four-year school. The net result would be a four-year degree for half the price. 

Now, I’m all for helping lower-achieving students find a way to college. 

Dyersburg State Community College and Tennessee College of Applied Technology, both of which have campuses here in Covington, are excellent institutions that are great assets to the community. 

There’s no doubt more students should take advantage of these schools and I would imagine free tuition would significantly boost enrollment. 

But it seems ludicrous to take money from students have worked hard throughout their high school career to make that happen.

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