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posted by n1 on Friday April 18 2014, @08:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the gambling-with-education dept.

Alternet reports on eduction reform in Tennessee.

The Tennessee House and Senate have approved a measure that allows for two free years of tuition at community colleges or technical schools for all the state's high school graduates. The proposal not only has the backing of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, it was based on his idea.

Moreover, the legislation passed by an overwhelming majority. The state's House of Representatives voted in favor of the legislation with a 87-8 margin.

When the plan, called Tennessee Promise, becomes law, [it] should provide free higher education for about 25,000 students in the state beginning in 2015. It will only benefit incoming freshmen. College sophomores attending two year schools in 2015 will not be able to participate in the plan, but will still be eligible for other state financial aid programs.

The estimated cost of the program is $34 [million] annually. Money will be transferred from the proceeds of the Tennessee Lottery to create an endowment for the program.

A similar proposal in 2007 failed.

In 1960, California was the first state to suspend college tuition. After President Reagan's cuts, the state dropped that program in 1984. Despite that, California's public colleges still have the lowest tuition rates in the country.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tathra on Friday April 18 2014, @08:20AM

    by tathra (3367) on Friday April 18 2014, @08:20AM (#33002)

    i applaud Bill Haslam. this kind of thing from a republican takes a lot of courage - i expect his fellow republicans to start calling him a RINO and communist. this guy stands as an example for how his fellow party members need to be, putting the people he represents first, rather than idiotic, untenable ideology and opposing their own fucking policies because they were put forth by a democrat.

    • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Friday April 18 2014, @08:36AM

      by evilviper (1760) on Friday April 18 2014, @08:36AM (#33005) Homepage Journal

      Party polities only gets really nasty at the national level. As long as he doesn't have ambitions for the presidency, I don't expect any problems. The more local you get, the more individual personal traits, and actions trump dogma.

      I typically vote democrat, but there are plenty of cases where some friends or family have gotten caught-up with some government agency misbehaving, and contacting a local (sometimes Republican) representative has gotten some bureaucrat's ass chewed-out at over the phone at 2am, and the problem very quickly resolved. That kind of simple action (or inaction), as far as officials actually doing their stated job, easily trumps political affiliations.

      Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Thexalon on Friday April 18 2014, @12:32PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Friday April 18 2014, @12:32PM (#33038)

        It depends a lot on where in the country you're living. For every Jon Huntsman (a moderate get-things-done kind of guy), there's a Chris Christie (a not-at-all-moderate, petty partisan bully).

        Also, even if things are going well at the state level, as soon as the state becomes important to the national parties they can bring a lot of stupid politicking with them.

        The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by scruffybeard on Friday April 18 2014, @12:01PM

      by scruffybeard (533) on Friday April 18 2014, @12:01PM (#33031)

      I believe we all need examples like this to remind us that not everyone in the other party is an obstinate jerk. It is only a vocal minority that has the microphone at the moment that makes it seem that way.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Angry Jesus on Friday April 18 2014, @12:59PM

      by Angry Jesus (182) on Friday April 18 2014, @12:59PM (#33043)

      You should see the crazy-ass stuff he's entangled himself with regarding unionization at a volkswagon plant in the state.

      VW has been tight-lipped in public, but it is pretty clear that they want the union because it is the vehicle for implementing a works council [] which is a system that involves labor in plant managment decisions similar to the principles of W Edward Deming's [] Total Quality Management which has been credited for making the Japanese auto-industry so effective. The plant in Tennessee is one of the few, maybe the only, VW plant without a works council.

      Haslam told VW that if the plant unionizes, a $300M incentive offer will be rescinded. [] That "statement of fact" (he insists it was not a threat) was part of secret negotiations between the state and VW. But it wasn't a secret from US Senator Bob Corker who told workers voting on unionization that VW would only pick up a new, second manufacturing line at the plant if they rejected the union. []

      Haslam has put idelogy so far ahead of anything else in this situation, that he's got no worries of being called a RINO.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by rev_irreverence on Friday April 18 2014, @01:23PM

      by rev_irreverence (144) on Friday April 18 2014, @01:23PM (#33048)

      Republicans and Democrats can almost always agree when it comes to spending other people's money. It is only when the money runs out, and cuts have to be made, that the disagreements start.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @01:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @01:15PM (#33046)

    The summary says the plan is supposed to cover about 25,000 students annually but only cost $34 million. That would mean a full years tuition in Tennessee only costs $1360/student. Could this be possible?

    That number would cover about 4 credits at a state college in my state.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @02:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @02:19PM (#33070)

      This story at NPR [] has some details on the funding:

      "So I know you're wondering," Haslam said. "How do we pay for this?"

      Haslam told state lawmakers he'll tap into a mound of excess cash generated by the state's lottery. Roughly $300 million would go into an endowment. The returns would pay to send high school seniors without other scholarships to community college.

      "Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future? Priceless," he said to a round of applause. It's an effective one-liner that's been praised by education leaders and students.

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @02:53PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @02:53PM (#33079)

        Based on that, they believe they can generate $34 million a year off of a $300 million endowment? They are expecting some pretty serious returns on their money. I want to know who their broker is.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Angry Jesus on Friday April 18 2014, @03:22PM

          by Angry Jesus (182) on Friday April 18 2014, @03:22PM (#33100)

          According to the NPR article, they are also cutting $1000 per year from the first 2 years of current lottery-funded scholarships to 4-year colleges.

    • (Score: 2) by Taibhsear on Monday April 21 2014, @08:11PM

      by Taibhsear (1464) on Monday April 21 2014, @08:11PM (#34135)

      at community colleges or technical schools

      It's not to university, just smaller schools for associates degrees and certifications. The Chicago community colleges are about $90 per credit hour. (not including all the ridiculous fees they tack on) So it's not unimaginable.

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Snotnose on Friday April 18 2014, @02:01PM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Friday April 18 2014, @02:01PM (#33062)

    In the 80's my tuition fees (2 years community, 2 years State college) where dwarfed by my textbook fees. Until colleges go to either a "you can't make a new version of this calculus book every 2 years" policy, or go open source textbooks, free tuition won't make much difference to low income students.

    "Now let me get this straight. The arabs get the oil, and we have to cut the ends of our what off?" ----- Moses
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @02:16PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @02:16PM (#33068)

      As someone who is currently in college after a 15yr break, I can say textbook costs have come way down in that time. When I first attended college, in the mid-90's, the campus bookstore was pretty much one's only option for textbooks. If you could even get your hands on a used textbook there, the campus bookstores seriously inflated the prices.

      These days websites like Amazon have used copies of just about any textbook imaginable at a fraction of what you can buy them for at brick and mortar stores around campus. There is even an option to rent the book these days for even less. In the odd chance that I am forced to buy a "new" textbook, I can still find it online significantly cheaper than anywhere around campus. I usually have to spend around $200 semester on books at most.

    • (Score: 2) by TK on Friday April 18 2014, @03:05PM

      by TK (2760) on Friday April 18 2014, @03:05PM (#33085)

      When I was in college, fairly recently, with a few exceptions* my engineering professors assigned two sets of homework: one for the new edition of the book, and one for the N-1 edition of the book. They were the same problems, of course. This allowed me and my more frugal classmates to buy a used copy of the N-1 edition, and pass the class with no problems.

      In other cases, you could buy the N-1 edition for personal use, then photocopy the assigned questions from the N edition in the school's library, or befriend someone in the class who has the N edition.

      *Professors who wrote their own book, and in one case a book that just weren't available, new or used, for less than $1000.

      The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Covalent on Friday April 18 2014, @02:43PM

    by Covalent (43) on Friday April 18 2014, @02:43PM (#33077) Journal
    You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by dcollins on Friday April 18 2014, @03:10PM

    by dcollins (1168) on Friday April 18 2014, @03:10PM (#33091) Homepage

    Remember, kids, in Tennessee only 11.3% of community college students graduate within 3 years of when they start. So this funding program (not unlike a lot of states now) will be about 90% waste? Perhaps worse if it entices even less-well prepared students to attend. Depending on how much BS the high school degree is, it may pressure the community colleges to reduce standards in exchange for the funding, not avoid showing atrocious graduation rates, and thus produce similar BS value for their associates degrees.

    That's a description of a good part of my job in NY state, working at what's considered the best community college, but still 2/3 of our students can never pass remedial 7th-grade algebra even after numerous attempts (likewise across the nation). Yet state financial aid actually requires that they register for full-load classes for two years while this plays out. What a waste of resources. e=tn&sector=public_two []

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @05:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18 2014, @05:09PM (#33133)

      It is a community college. Some people that go are working and thus take a little longer. Many adults that already have bachelors degrees take a class or two for education, not a degree. Each one of those adults that take one summer class on how to use a welder or sign language or whatever interests them drags the graduation rate down.

      Essentially, because community colleges focus on community education, not pumping out degree holders the most worthless statistic to judge community colleges by is their graduation rate.

      • (Score: 1) by dcollins on Monday April 21 2014, @06:09AM

        by dcollins (1168) on Monday April 21 2014, @06:09AM (#33864) Homepage

        Incorrect. People that take one class (continuing education, etc.) are not counted in those statistics. The figures counted towards graduation are strictly "full-time equivalent undergraduates, based on total credit hours taken" (see linked site above, bottom of page). So even restricting ourselves only to full-time enrollees pursuing a 2-year degree, still only about 10% get a degree in 3 years.

        Consider the experience in NY state (where I've taught at a community college for 10 years). The state funds most students (TAP: Tuition Assistance Program) for 2 years, but only if those students are full-time enrollees. Among the pressures this creates are people working full-time being incented to simultaneously register for a full load of courses, which they generally can't handle at the same time (numerous classes will be automatic failures). When the TAP runs out after 2 years, they're now in a "sunk cost" situation where they're paying for the remaining classes out-of-pocket. If there's one class they absolutely cannot pass (for most: remedial 7th grade algebra), then they become committed to paying for, and re-taking, that class for possibly several years. It's an ugly situation and causes a lot of cutting corners around the standards and requirements.