Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

TENNESSEAN: University of Tennessee takes good step forward with UT Promise

March 20, 2019
In The News

I was pleased to read of President Randy Boyd’s announcement that the University of Tennessee will begin offering free tuition to meritorious, need-based students in 2020.

Despite it being named UT Promise, the program most closely resembles the HOPE scholarship program, which requires academic achievement and has a need-based component, and not the Tennessee Promise program which is a last dollar program that has no consideration of need or potential academic success, all while it takes money from the Tennessee Education Lottery which was designed to fund the HOPE scholarship program to benefit those who have shown academic success and potential.

The HOPE provides extra benefit via the Aspire Award to those who have financial need.  Indeed, the UT Promise program is available only to HOPE recipients.  It has been discouraging over the past several years to watch the Tennessee lottery revenues directed to programs other than the HOPE scholarship fund, as HOPE was never used to cover full tuition.

It is heartening that Mr. Boyd has, in some part, revived the ideal of keeping the best and brightest in Tennessee by using the HOPE standard.  Just this week an FBI sting operation demonstrated some of the stark reality of the advantage those with wealth wield in our nation’s educational system.  However, there are many more advantages wealthy students have that are woven into the system.  Students shouldn’t have to incur crippling student loan debt or work at jobs which take away from their studies while in school. 

This issue has long been near and dear to my heart and I am proud for the nearly two-decade effort I led in the Tennessee General Assembly to pass the lottery referendum and create the HOPE scholarship program.

I applaud Randy Boyd’s continuation of the goal of rewarding academic achievement to help students

begin their careers without the scourge of tuition debt.

Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, represents Tennessee's Ninth District in the U.S. House of Representatives.