By Alaynna K. McCormick
There has been a lot of discussion lately about the new bill regarding the HOPE Scholarship Program. For as long as any Hope Scholarship recipients have been in college, the amount received by applicable students every year has been $4,000 regardless of what year they are in, with an extra $1,500 on hand as needed. However, on February 3, 2014, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced a new initiative with education in our state, known as “Tennessee Promise.”
“Tennessee Promise” aims to make it possible for more students to attend college by making the first two years they attend absolutely free. The catch? It is only applicable to those who attend a Tennessee community college. As if that is not enough, however, in order to pay for it, Haslam has announced that they will have to reduce the HOPE scholarship from $4,000 to $3,000 for those who are underclassmen. It has been made clear, however, that the amount will be raised to $5,000 for upperclassmen, but is this really the same thing?
When I graduated from high school, I immediately began touring college campuses, because I knew from the time I was in grade school that I wanted to continue my education passed a high school diploma. I visited community colleges as well as universities, and at every one I tried not to hear prices or graduation statistics, but rather get a ‘feel’ for the campuses. So many people had emphasized my senior year of high school the need for each individual student to pick a college that was the right fit for them. This was the first real step I was going to make entirely on my own, and I had worked hard to get the grades that would help give me choices.
I still remember the snowy day I first visited the Tennessee Wesleyan campus. I listened to Dr. Knowles talk about the global perspective and leadership Tennessee Wesleyan aimed to pass on to all students and sat in on Dr. John Berch’s science demonstration in which he illustrated how much energy could be produced by burning a Cheeto, and I was sold. Tennessee Wesleyan from the moment I stepped foot in Townshend Hall, has revealed itself to possess a serious dedication to excellence, but with multiple fun spins as quirky and unique as its professors. I was able to go here in great part due to the HOPE scholarship. I may not have been able to pick this college if it was not for it, and even with it, I have to maintain a job here in Athens to pay for the $3,000 not quite covered by my tuition.
A burden another $1,000 would weigh heavy on me. When freshman and sophomores are still trying to adapt to the differences in a college education, they should not be overly concerned with working to lessen their student debt. It does not seem right for students to be penalized for not choosing a community college when that is not the path that is right for everyone. In addition, many students worked and are working very hard to maintain the HOPE scholarship, while those receiving the first two years free at a community college did not necessarily work as hard to receive such benefits.
Despite these opinions, however, some students are excited about the prospect of the new initiative. They feel that the program will benefit them as or soon-to-be upperclassmen, providing them with an additional $1,000 dollars. It will also benefit those who do intend to go to community college simply to get the credits required to get just about every major out of the way.
Any Tennessee Wesleyan students who has any questions and concerns about their scholarships and financial situation have been directed to visit Financial Aid on the second floor of Lawrence Hall.