Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Changes to lottery scholarship puts degree plans in limbo

A cap on the number of credit hours paid for by Tennessee's lottery scholarship has some students and parents worried about how to pay for degrees that go over the limit.The legislation limiting HOPE scholarship funds to 120 hours passed this month and also allows students to use scholarship money for summer classes. Most universities in Tennessee have set their minimum graduation levels at 120 hours, but the legislation provides an exception for degree programs that require more credits, such as Mechatronics,
engineering and architecture.

But students who have multiple majors or who switched their majors are at risk of losing their scholarship funds before they graduate.The University of Tennessee estimates that 2,200 third-year students across their system could potentially have trouble graduating within the 120-hour limit.Katie High, vice president for academic affairs at the University of Tennessee, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that advisers will work with those students to reach graduation before their scholarship runs out.We knew there would be an impact on some students, but that the trade-off is that summer school would have a larger and more positive impact overall, High said.We knew going into it we couldn't have everything we wanted.Tamara Shepherd fears she'll be left to foot the bill when her daughter's scholarship expires. Carmen Shepherd is a triple education major elementary education, middle school education and English as a second language at UT Chattanooga. She will likely exceed 158 credit hours before she graduates.

The rules have changed in the middle of the game,Tamara Shepherd said.They're two years into a degree, thinking they have X number of years left.The changes take effect in the fall and also affect students who started getting the HOPE scholarship during or after the fall 2009 semester.
We want to do everything we can so students and parents understand the rules,High said. We'll do our part to see they have good advising, to make sure courses they need to graduate are available. If they choose to take some other path, then they have to take some responsibility.Advance placement and dual enrollment credits earned in high school do not count toward the 120 credit hours. Third year students, who are most of the way through their degree programs, are most likely to be affected adversely.A double-major in math and statistics, Jessica Welch will likely graduate with 170 credit hours in two years. Currently studying abroad in England, she said if they applied the new cap to only incoming freshman, students would have time to plan out their degree to graduate under the requirements.

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