Tennessee Private Colleges Concerned About Free Community College Tuition

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 11:00 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Private colleges in Tennessee are concerned about Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to offer free community and technical college tuition to high school graduates at the expense of scholarships to four-year colleges and universities.

After expressing concern over the dip into scholarship awards to help offset the $35 million price tag to cover community college tuition, Haslam has backtracked a bit by saying he would instead only cut scholarships and grants for freshman and sophomores by half of what was originally proposed, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

But the Tennessee Independent Colleges & Universities Association is calling on "the governor and the General Assembly to return the four-year scholarships to their original levels." The new proposal would reduce college and university scholarship funding by $1.1 million per year, the group estimated.

Haslam told the Journal that there have been complaints by local businesses that qualified workers may be hard to find in the future, and that the legislation has strong support from the state's largest business organization, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

James Catanzaro, president of a community college in Chattanooga, argued four-year college graduates leave school "not prepared for the workplace" and with "a lot of debt."

Private-college officials contend that it's a mistake to reduce college education to only what it means in terms of jobs.

Versions of the Tennessee Republican's proposals will be introduced to committees in the General Assembly this week.

Similar measures have been offered in Oregon and Mississippi.

The Michigan legislature introduced a plan that would allow students to attend college for free, but they would be required to pay a percentage of their income after they graduated.

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