Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s plan to make two-year community colleges and vocational schools tuition free for residents is getting some pushback from the state’s private colleges. Haslam intends to pay for the program in part by cutting back on scholarships for four-year schools. Private schools worry that the cuts will make their institutions less accessible to needier students. Haslam has agreed to reduce the scholarship cuts, but he’s refused to back off the plan entirely, as the WSJ reports:
The Tennessee Independent Colleges & Universities Association estimates the new plan would reduce net scholarship funding to the state’s private colleges and universities by $1.1 million annually. Claude O. Pressnell Jr. , president of the association, said, “We look forward to continuing to work with the governor and the General Assembly to return the four-year scholarships to their original levels.”Mr. Haslam said he was open to compromise, but “the numbers have to work.”
We understand why private schools are upset, but we aren’t particularly sympathetic to their arguments. Rising government student aid has been a major factor driving the rapid tuition increases of the past thirty years. We tend to like anything that puts the brakes on this process and encourages more students to enroll in workforce-oriented programs without taking on crushing debt.As for the four-year colleges, rather than trying to gobble up even more state aid to keep their doors open to poorer students, they should focus on cutting costs so that fewer applicants will need that aid in the first place.