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Ten Equity Centered Proposals for Advancing Educational Justice in 2022

Ten for Tennessee

About the Award

Ten for Tennessee recognizes and celebrates the top ten policy and budget proposals in 2022 that best advance educational equity and justice in the state.

Every legislative session, Tennessee lawmakers offer new ideas or proposed changes to programs and policies that touch the lives of millions of students across the state, from preschool through higher education. The Education Trust in Tennessee is proud to recognize the ideas that have the greatest potential to improve opportunity and access for students of color, students from lower-income communities, students with disabilities and English Learners. We will continue to monitor and support these bills as they move through the legislature this term.

Learn more about The Education Trust in Tennessee , our Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education and our 2022 Policy Agenda.

The Ten for Tennessee for 2022 header and corresponding trophy
01

Banning Pre-Kindergarten to 2nd Grade Suspensions

HB2258 / SB2173 | Representative Torrey C. Harris & Senator Raumesh Akbari

FAILED
In the House, HB2258 failed in the K-12 Subcommittee of Education Administration. In the Senate, SB2173 was assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee.
Supporting Students’ Social-Emotional and Academic Development

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What does this bill do?

HB2258 / SB2173 would prohibit Local Education Agencies (LEA) from suspending or expelling a student enrolled in pre-kindergarten through second grade. If a student’s behavior is endangering the physical safety of others, this bill would limit the suspension to no more than three days and would require students to be provided with the opportunity to let their anger, fear, or anxiety subside in addition to having a conversation with a teacher principal, school counselor, or psychologist about the underlying issues that may have precipitated the student’s behavior.

Why does this bill matter?

Banning pre-kindergarten to second grade suspensions would have a foundational impact on students’ social, emotional, and academic development. Banning suspensions at an early age would encourage our school districts to prioritize trauma-informed and restorative justice practices that promote student reflection, support childhood growth and development, and build healthy learning environments. Finding alternatives to suspension is a tool to reduce exclusionary, punitive discipline practices that disproportionately punish students of color and students with disabilities, feeding the school to prison pipeline.

Research shows that harms from being suspended include short consequences such as missing out on essential class time and learning opportunities. Cycles of lost class time cause students to fall further behind their peers, which is especially detrimental during the pre-kindergarten through second-grade years when students are learning the most foundational literacy and math skills. Furthermore, long-term negative implications of being suspended include lower academic achievement and an increased likelihood of future interactions with the criminal legal system. However, students who go to schools with lower suspension rates are more likely to have higher long-term academic success and attend four-year colleges.

Too often, discipline practices such as suspensions in schools result in damage to a student’s development through harmful policies, resulting in disproportionate outcomes. Tennessee can influence district policies and school disciplinary actions by setting clear goals to reduce disparities and overuses in discipline, ensuring a strong set of data is publicly transparent, and adopting more positive approaches to discipline.

02

Banning the Use of Corporal Punishment on Students

HB2564 / SB2213 | Representative Yusuf Hakeem & Senator Heidi Campbell

FAILED
In the House, HB2564 failed in the K-12 Subcommittee of Education Administration. In the Senate, SB2213 was assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee.
Supporting Students’ Social-Emotional and Academic Development

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What does this bill do?

HB2564 / SB2213 would prohibit teachers, school principals, and all other school personnel from using corporal punishment against students. Tennessee is one of nineteen states in which corporal punishment is still legally allowed in public schools, which is defined as the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain so as to correct their misbehavior. Under the guise of “discipline”, corporal punishment – impacting children as young as three years old – includes striking, paddling, spanking, requiring a student to assume a painful physical position, in addition to the use of chemical sprays, electroshock weapons, or stun guns on a student’s body.

Why does this bill matter?

The Centers for Disease Control considers physical punishment to be abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection, corporal punishment disproportionately impacts students of color, students with disabilities, and boys. During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years combined, there were more than 4,200 reported incidents of corporal punishments in Tennessee’s public schools, with nearly 20% of those students identified as having demonstrated disabilities due to their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or Section 504 plans. This number may represent an alarming undercount, however, as more than a third of Tennessee’s districts failed to comply with state law and report corporal punishment data in 2018-19 (54 out of 147) and nearly one-half failed to disclose in 2019-20 (69 out of 147). Zooming out, Tennessee has the fourth-highest percentage of students reporting corporal punishment nationwide.

Studies have shown that corporal punishment has numerous adverse effects on student development including but not limited to, 1) no decrease in short or long-term compliance, 2) increased aggression, 3) decreased cognitive function, verbal capacity, brain development, and ability to solve problems effectively, 4) lower levels of academic achievement and social competence, and 5) physical injury, disruptive recovery, damaged relationships, behavioral challenges and increased absenteeism. Physical corporal punishment is considered a form of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and is linked to associations with increased behavior problems throughout a child’s development, education career, and life.

Every student deserves a learning environment that fosters growth and belonging, where they are assured that their class is safe and free from harm. Passing HB2564 / SB2213 is a #Ten4TN because banning corporal punishment would protect the safety of all of our students and allow our school districts to better promote students’ social, emotional, and academic development.

03

Establishing a Fund for Educator License Reimbursements

HB1900 / SB2567 | Representative Terri Lynn Weaver & Senator Rusty Crowe

TAKEN OFF NOTICE
In the House, HB1900 was taken off notice in the Finance Ways & Means Subcommittee of the Finance Ways & Means Committee. In the Senate, SB2567 was assigned to the Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Ways & Means Committee.
Increasing Educator Diversity and Quality

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What does this bill do?

HB1900 / SB2567 would require the Tennessee Department of Education to establish a fund to reimburse educators in the amount equal to the cost of an assessment required for a license if the educator receives a qualifying score on the required assessment, and who receives a license to teach in this state or an endorsement while currently employed by a LEA in this state.

Why does this bill matter?

According to the Commissioner of Education, Tennessee public schools have been short approximately 2,000 teachers for the past several years, and it is likely that this number could also be an undercount. The number of educators graduating from the 43 teacher training programs across the state has dropped nearly one-fifth over five years, with much of that decline happening even before the pandemic. For example, in Memphis and Shelby County Schools, the state’s largest district, there were over 200 teaching positions open last fall. This problematic trend coincides with the increased number of educators who are choosing to leave the classroom due to the stressful challenges they endured (and are enduring) teaching amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, approximately 22% of Tennessee educators responded to a recent survey and indicated that they plan to leave education.

With all the above data into consideration, it is evident that there is an urgent need for Tennessee to continue taking actions that support and empower our teachers by making the pathway to become an educator more accessible. Taking multiple required tests to obtain your license in Tennessee can add up to hundreds of dollars depending on the subject, including the costs of potentially numerous retakes needed to pass. Currently, teachers must pay many of these fees out of their own pocket. Studying for and completing various assessments is an onerous process on top of other training program requirements, and the financial component included could potentially disincentivize candidates from wanting to teach.

There are many ways that Tennessee must continue improving the institutional support and long-term retention of our state’s teaching workforce, and reimbursing educators for licensure and endorsement exams represents a step in the right direction.

04

Enhancing K-12 Public Education Funding

$750 million one-time funds in FY23 and $1 Billion in new recurring funds

Governor Bill Lee & Commissioner Penny Schwinn

Representative William Lamberth & Senator Jack Johnson

PASSED
Final: $750 million funds in FY23 was passed as a part of the Governor’s budget bill through (SB2897/HB2882), which will be used to implement The Tennessee Investment for Student Achievement (TISA) in FY24.
Enhancing K-12 Public Education Funding

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What does this budget proposal do?

In Governor Lee’s recommended budget proposal for the fiscal year 2023 (FY23), he included a one-time $750 million allocation to K-12 schools, which is part of a larger investment of $1 billion in new annual recurring K-12 education funding. An additional $750 million to fund our state’s education system would make a foundational impact in improving funding and resource equity for students.

Why does this budget proposal matter?

Tennessee is 44th in the nation based on the amount that we fund K-12 education, spending an average of $11,139 per student each year, which is significantly below the national average of $15,114. Our current funding formula, the Basic Education Program (BEP), is a resource-based formula that is not driven by students’ specific needs and funds districts based on 47 components that represent an outdated list of resources not adequate to the modern needs of schools today. Consequently, critical positions like school counselors, social workers, and nurses are underfunded, and students are not receiving adequate support. Even with the funding that Tennessee has now, resources are not allocated equitably considering that districts serving the most students from low-income communities receive about the same funding as those serving the fewest.

Recent research has illuminated how money significantly matters in schools, particularly for historically underserved students facing barriers to resources. School finance reforms have increased graduation and college-going rates, particularly for Black students and women, and raised annual earnings. Moreover, increasing school funding can lead to higher student achievement, especially in low-income districts, and influences positive economic outcomes such as increasing low-income families’ educational attainment and wages. Additionally, more funding for special education programs can lead to higher outcomes for students with and without disabilities. Schools in rural areas face higher costs to pay for essential services like transportation and nutrition, and therefore, require more funding. Overall, increased school funding can lead to positive student, district, and family outcomes.

05

Improving Student Food Access and Security

HB0815/SB0674 | Representative John Ray Clemmons & Senator Sara Kyle

TAKEN OFF NOTICE
In the House, HB0815 was taken off notice in the Subcommittee of Education Administration. In the Senate, SB0674 was referred to the Senate Education Committee.

HB1669/SB1825 | Representative Darren Jernigan & Senator Jeff Yarbro

PASSED
Public Chapter 829
Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Student Learning and Well-Being

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What do these bills do?

HB0815/SB0674 enacts the “Tennessee Anti-Lunch Shaming Act”, prohibiting schools from taking certain actions against a student who cannot pay for a meal or who has accumulated a meal debt, requires a school to provide a meal to each student who requests one and requires a school to assist parents and guardians with obtaining free or reduced-price meals for eligible students. HB1669/SB1825 requires the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to submit a report to the Governor and speakers of the Senate and House of Representatives by December 31, 2023, on food insecurity among students at public institutions of higher education in this state and that identifies and describes the efforts of the institutions to address food insecurity among students.

Why do these bills matter?

Food access and security for children at all stages in their life is foundational to their development. Too many students – especially Black students, Latino students, and students from low-income backgrounds – are experiencing food insecurity. People of color are more likely to live in food deserts, and consequently, many students do not have access to the necessary nutrition for their physical, mental, social-emotional, and academic growth. Moreover, food insecurity among Black and Latino households with children skyrocketed during the pandemic, leaving nearly 4 in 10 families struggling to feed their families. School meals create inclusive learning environments for students, but can also serve to isolate or shame them if there are policies in place that punish children with meal debt, which is why the “Tennessee Anti-Lunch Shaming Act” has been passed in many states.

In Tennessee, 1 in 6 children face hunger, which equates to approximately 237,100 children across the state. No Kid Hungry Tennessee found that 19% of children in Tennessee live in “food insecure” homes, more than 35% of students who qualify for free/reduced breakfast are not accessing the program even though they are accessing lunch, and only 12% of students who may need them have access to after school meals. Zooming out, similar problems are prevalent in Tennessee’s higher education institutions. A 2020 study found that one third of students in the University of Tennessee system do not have reliable access to food – 32% of the student population. This means, 1 out of 3 students identifies as food insecure, which is more than double the national household average of food insecurity of 11%. These statistics have further been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic because of related challenges such as unemployment spikes and the loss of basic income.

Adequate and nutritious food for students and their families is fundamental to education equity. Food insecurity is associated with lower grade point average, difficulty concentrating in class, and concerns around perpetuating absenteeism, drop-out rates, and declining graduation. However, good school nutrition is linked to improved literary and math scores, improved cognitive function, reduced absenteeism, and long-term positive educational outcomes.

06

Eliminating Juvenile Fines and Fees

HB2307 / SB2172 | Senator Raumesh Akbari and Representative David Hawk

SUMMER STUDY
In the House, HB2307 was deferred to Summer Study in the Civil Justice Committee. In the Senate, SB2172 was assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Supporting Students’ Social-Emotional and Academic Development

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What does this bill do?

HB2307 / SB2172 would eliminate some of the major required fines and fees charged to youth and families in the juvenile justice system, and would require the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, the Department of Children’s Services, and the Commission on Children and Youth to jointly submit a report addressing statewide data collection in the juvenile justice system, on or before January 1, 2024, to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Why does this bill matter?

Fines and fees in the juvenile system and criminal justice system at large are pervasive, regressive, discriminatory, and disproportionately impact children of color and families from low-income communities. Tennessee authorizes over 360 distinct fines and fees related to the operating costs of local and state criminal justice systems from pre-trial, to court, conviction, incarceration, and community supervision. Fees are charged to youth and their families for simply encountering the justice system, along with fees for court-ordered services, including diversion programs, ankle monitors, probation, and even incarceration. Fines are imposed on youth for certain infractions or crimes.

The criminal justice system collects millions of dollars through extensive lists of fees at every point in the system, but often generates inconsistent revenue and leads to undesirable incentives. Due to targeted policing and the over surveillance of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, youth from these communities are over-punished. In Tennessee approximately 21% of youth across the state are Black, but 53% of youth who are incarcerated are Black, and Black youth are 4.6 times more likely than White youth to be incarcerated. These racial disparities are reflected and perpetuated by inequitable cycles of suspension and expulsions in school, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline.

Research studies overwhelmingly highlight that fines and fees impose long-term financial and emotional harm on children, and often charge families who are already struggling to maintain economic and social stability, creating an endless cycle of financial hardships. Fines and fees are especially harmful to low-income and rural families in Tennessee who must choose between paying these charges and meeting the basic needs of their children such as food, rent, utilities, or other opportunities. Eliminating fines and fees is a racial, economic, and educational justice issue that could help disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, improve childhood social emotional and academic development, and sustain Tennessee’s community and economic well-being.

07

Promoting the Teaching of Truthful History in Our Classrooms

HB2106 / SB2501 | Representative Yusuf Hakeem & Senator Raumesh Akbari

PASSED
Public Chapter 938

HB2491 / SB2358 | Representative John Ray Clemmons & Senator Brenda Gilmore

TAKEN OFF NOTICE
In the House, HB2491 was taken off notice in the Education Instruction Subcommittee of Education Instruction. In the Senate, SB2358 was referred to the Senate Education Committee.

HB2291 / SB2508 | Representative Harold M. Love, Jr. & Senator Raumesh Akbari

PASSED
Public Chapter 1063
Increasing Educator Diversity and Quality

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What do these bills do?

HB2106/SB2501 would require that the course of instruction for students in grades five through eight include curricula designed to educate students in Black history and black culture, and would require the Department of Education to include multicultural diversity in frameworks and curricula for students in kindergarten through grade 12. HB2491/SB2358 would require LEAs and public charter schools to provide instruction regarding the Holocaust. HB2291/SB2508 would require Tennessee’s standards recommendation committee to include certain academic standards regarding the civil rights movement in the committee’s final recommendation of academic standards in the subject of social studies for students in grades nine through 12.

Why do these bills matter?

Schools must be an inclusive, safe, nurturing environment so that children can learn to address some of the world’s most complex issues. To do so, schools must teach a diverse and challenging curriculum, and students need to engage with materials that reflect the rich history of all students and our world. Schools have a responsibility to provide students with thorough, truthful, and fact-based history as a means of addressing misinformation and avoiding mistakes of the past.

Studies have demonstrated that interdisciplinary studies (social, political, economic, and historical perspective of diverse racial and ethnic groups) include many benefits for cross-cultural understanding and meaningfully supports students of color with valuing their own cultural identity while simultaneously encouraging all students to both appreciate and better understanding the differences around them. Curriculum that utilizes multicultural frameworks that emphasize the unique cultures and histories of our students include a multitude of educational benefits. From improved racial and cultural awareness to enhanced critical thinking skills and higher levels of community belonging, research shows that a diverse curriculum in schools leads to overall increased academic abilities.

When students engage thoughtfully with various historical concepts and current issues, they build crucial problem-solving practice and interpersonal skills that ultimately, enable them to participate as effective citizens and inclusive leaders in diverse settings beyond the classroom.

08

Increasing Opportunities to Career & Technical Education and Tennessee’s Colleges of Applied Technology

$200 Million TCAT Investment and $550 Million CTE Grants | Governor Bill Lee, Commissioner Penny Schwinn, Representative William Lamberth & Senator Jack Johnson

PASSED
Final: Approximately $200 Million for TCATs and $500 Million was included in the Governor’s budget bill, SB2897/HB2882.

HB1959/SB2370 | Representative Dave Wright & Senator Jon Lundberg

PASSED
Public Chapter 884
Closing Achievement and Opportunity Gaps in P-12 and Beyond

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What does this bill and budget proposal do?

HB1959/SB2370 would create opportunities for high school students to complete a state college of applied technology program by the student’s graduation from high school, and encourage the Board of Regents to establish a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in each county within the state in order to expand career and technical opportunities. This bill would require each TCAT to contract with each LEA in the same county as the TCAT’s main campus to provide students with the opportunity to complete a TCAT program by graduation, which can be in the form of traditional classroom instruction, online, or blended learning. Along similar lines, Governor Lee’s FY23 budget also expands early college and career experiences through his proposal of $200 million for TCAT equipment/ facility improvement and $550 million for Career and Technical Education (CTE).

Why does this bill and budget proposal matter?

Tennessee has 27 TCATs that are essential to providing training for workers to obtain technical skills and professional training necessary to advance and succeed in our country’s competitive job market. This past fall, TCAT registrations and dual enrollment significantly increased, as more than 12,000 students were registered (about 1,000 more than the year prior). 16 of the 27 TCATs reported registration increases, and TCAT registered by dual-enrolled high school students had increased 47% compared to last fall. State officials have increasingly pointed to technical colleges as potential footholds that can increase attainment numbers for students who struggle, including students from low-income families who balance work with class time or students who struggle in liberal arts colleges. Career-focused programs can make TCATs an attractive option in rural areas where liberal arts education can be a more difficult appeal, and TCATs are closer to critical educational needs. Moreover, graduating high school already credentialed could help substantially in combating rural brain drain and support students who want to stay closer to their community with an increased number of TCAT locations.

Many courses fall under CTE so it can be hard to generalize. However, research has shown that there has been a significant positive impact on student outcomes such as graduation and workforce attainment from taking one or more CTE classes in high school. Some of these promising results have been linked to the highest benefits for students from low-income communities. Increasing access to our state’s TCATs and CTE opportunities is important to provide increased choices for students as they navigate their post-secondary career plans. Through this process, it is necessary to consider equity implications and the unintended consequences of the disproportionate tracking of students of color and students from low-income students. With increased TCATs and CTE, we also must simultaneously train our college and career coaches and support our school counselors to appropriately work with students on understanding all of their different choices.

09

Addressing Gaps in Higher Education Fiscal Equity by Repaying Tennessee State University

$250 Million non-recurring funds for Capital Outlay and $60 Million for new engineering building | Governor Bill Lee, Senator Jack Johnson, Representative William Lamberth & Representative Harold M. Love, Jr.

PASSED
Final: Approximately $311 Million for TSU Capital Outlay was included in the Governor’s budget bill, SB2897/HB2882.
Addressing Funding and Resource Equity

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What does this budget proposal do?

The $250 million non-recurring funds for capital outlay and $60 million for a new engineering building at Tennessee State University (TSU) included in Governor Lee’s FY23 budget proposal is a monumental step forward toward repaying Tennessee’s only public historically Black institution part of the over $544 million it is owed by the state.

Why does this budget proposal matter?

TSU’s history underfunding connects back to the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The Morrill Act of 1862 led to the foundation of 57 land-grant institutions that were created to provide access and affordable quality education for whom higher education had been unattainable in the past. The Morrill Act of 1890 was created in response to the refusal of mostly Southern states to admit Black students into land-grant institutions created through the Act of 1862. Furthermore, the amended Hatch Act of 1955 provided universal funding to land-grant institutions, rather than separate funding between institutions founded in 1862 and 1890, which meant Tennessee was required to match state and federal grant funding for its two land grant institutions, TSU and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK).

50 years later, TSU finally received its first-ever partially required match in 2007, whereas UTK – the state’s predominately white, land-grant institution – had been consistently funded. In 1968, Tennessee state Rep. Harold Love Sr. noticed this funding discrepancy between the two land-grant institutions in Tennessee and started a years-long journey researching the disparity in financial support. In 1970, Rep. Love found evidence of non-payment, but the state of Tennessee continued to deny TSU the federally required funding match from 1970 to 2007, denying critical funding to support students, staff, and programs for almost 40 years. In 2020, Rep. Harold Love Jr. continued his father’s investigation as chair of a newly created Land Grant Institution Funding History Study Committee, which investigated how much the state owed TSU.

The committee’s legislative committee report was publicly released on April 5th, 2021, and determined that Tennessee owed TSU between $150 million and $544 million. The report proved that the current funding ratio was 8:1, meaning that UT gets $8 for every $1 budgeted to TSU. This ratio is where the $150 million estimate stemmed from, but the $544 million is based on the funding ratio that was in place in the mid-2000s, which provided TSU one-third of what UT received. Neither of these amounts addressed inflation or the impact the federally required funding would have had at the time, but Tennessee should honor the initial ratio and pay TSU the full $544 million. This investment and repayment would allow TSU to respond to critical needs of infrastructure, staffing, faculty retention and hiring, and student recruitment. Accounting for inflation using the numbers from the report, the fiscal impact of underfunding TSU equates to between $324 million and $1.035 billion.

10

Expanding Higher Education Access through Tennessee’s HOPE Scholarship

$75 Million increasing HOPE Awards | Governor Bill Lee, Representative William Lamberth & Senator Jack Johnson

PASSED
Final: Approximately $88.6 million in dedicated lottery funds to increase the 4-year HOPE Award to $4,500—5,700 per student, per year, and the 2-year HOPE Award to $3,200 per student, per year.
Addressing Funding and Resource Equity

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What does this budget proposal do?

The $75 million investment toward increasing Tennessee’s HOPE Award Scholarship proposed in Governor Lee’s FY23 budget proposal would help increase access to the state’s public higher education institutions. The HOPE scholarship was established as a targeted merit aid program and is funded from the net proceeds of the state lottery. Eligibility for Tennessee HOPE includes having state residency, and also being an entering freshman enrolled at an eligible postsecondary institution within sixteen months after graduating from Tennessee eligible high school. A student also must earn at least a 21 ACT score or 1060 SAT score, OR a 3.0 grade point average (GPA). To retain the HOPE scholarship, students must maintain satisfactory academic progress of at least a 2.75 GPA. Four-year institutions and two-year institutions with on-campus housing include up to $1,750 per full-time enrollment semester as a freshman and sophomore; then up to $2,250 per full-time enrollment semester as a junior and senior. Two-year institutions include up to $1,500 per full-time enrollment semester as a freshman and sophomore.

Why does this budget proposal matter?

The HOPE scholarship was established by Governor Phil Bredesen in 2003. When the scholarship started, 65% of high school graduates were projected to be eligible for it. Studies have shown that Tennessee’s education lottery scholarship program, in comparison to other states with similar lottery scholarships, mitigates criticisms of merit aid programs. Critics of merit aid programs have pointed to larger issues of college access/affordability, rewarding middle/upper-class students who already would attend college, and the disproportionate lower percentage of merit scholarships that can be given to students of color or from low-income communities. However, a study of Tennessee’s HOPE scholarship has shown that these concerns can be reduced by the HOPE scholarship’s “or” criteria that increases eligibility reach for students of color and the award of larger scholarships to students from underrepresented communities in higher education.

The HOPE scholarship is one financial pathway helping students in Tennessee to navigate their post-secondary pathways, working alongside other higher education financial support programs, Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect. These programs are essential to alleviate some financial stress for our students, but it is also vital for elected leaders to simultaneously work to increase college affordability and break down other institutional barriers as well.

Expanding equitable financial support in our higher education pathways is important because it provides more funding and resource equity for students, particularly individuals from low-income backgrounds and historically underserved communities.