Tag Archives: students

First statewide TN student mock election set

News release from secretary of state’s office
Nashville, Tennessee – (August 24, 2016) – Tennessee’s first ever statewide Student Mock Election is off to an amazing start. As of today, more than 170 schools across the state are registered to participate, meaning an estimated 76,000 students will do something most kids can’t: vote for president of the United States.

Now the Secretary of State’s office is also rolling out an essay contest to encourage students to be actively engaged citizens. Essays topics will be about voting and length requirements vary by grade level. Schools may submit two essays at each grade level. Winners from each level will receive a TNStars 529 College Savings Program scholarship worth $100, $250 or $500 in addition to a trip to the State Capitol. Continue reading

‘Tennessee Student Free Speech Protection Act’

News release from Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville
Representative Martin Daniel (R-18th District) has filed a bill that would confirm the First Amendment right of students enrolled in Tennessee institutions of higher education.

House Bill 2063, entitled “The Tennessee Student Free Speech Protection Act,” would require that institutions of higher education adopt a policy on speech and expression that would confirm students’ freedom of speech as a fundamental right, guarantee them the broadest latitude to speak about any issue that presents itself, and allow students to openly and vigorously discuss ideas that other members of the institution’s community might oppose. Furthermore, the Act would prohibit higher education institutions from discouraging any type of lawful speech or expressive activity, establishing speech “safe zones,” or shielding individuals from ideas and opinions that they might find disagreeable, unwelcome or offensive.

“In Tennessee, the First Amendment does not stop at the campus gate,” said Representative Daniel. “This Bill would confirm the nearly forgotten concept of free speech. We can’t allow politically correct policies to smother free speech. Courtesy and sensitivity, while encouraged, can never trump basic constitutional rights. Tennessee higher education should prepare our students for the real world, and encouraging expression of all sorts of viewpoints is essential to that objective.”

UT’s forced food fee draws scrutiny

Excerpt from a New York Times article earlier this month on the University of Tennessee’s new $300 food fee:

For the first time this year, the University of Tennessee imposed a $300-per-semester dining fee on Mr. Miceli and about 12,000 other undergraduates, including commuters, who do not purchase other meal plans. The extra money will help finance a $177 million student union with limestone cornices, clay-tiled roofing and copper gutters, part of a campus reconstruction plan aimed at elevating the University of Tennessee to a “Top 25” public university.

Tennessee’s contract with its dining vendor, Aramark, is just one example of how universities nationwide are embracing increasingly lucrative deals with giant dining contractors, who offer commissions and signing bonuses to help pay for campus improvements and academic programs. It is part of a new model of raising money through partnerships with private vendors, officials say, and with state funding for higher education still below pre-recession levels, a way to replace lost revenue.

Under its contract, which runs through 2027, Tennessee will get 14 percent of all food revenues plus $15.2 million in renovations to dining facilities.

In exchange for signing a 20-year contract that runs through 2034, the University of Virginia recently got a $70 million contribution from Aramark, based in Philadelphia — in addition to $19 million in renovations and annual commissions increasing to $19 million a year.

…Universities frequently announce the windfalls with great fanfare, but critics say the cost gets passed on to students and contributes to the expense of college.

…Administrators here at the University of Tennessee, where a $1,899-per-semester meal plan is mandatory for freshmen who live on campus, first floated the requirement that other students buy a $300-per-semester meal plan at a meeting two years ago. Grant Davis, a student who attended the meeting, at which Aramark served lobster ravioli, said, “We knew we were being greased.”

Students protested the plan, garnering more than 1,000 signatures practically overnight on a petition titled “Don’t Force Feed Us.”

Phase 1 of the new student union building, heralded as the cornerstone of a campus transformation, opened this year, with a Chick-fil-A, Subway, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Starbucks and several other restaurants.

Students can get refunds if they do not eat the food, but experience at other schools shows that most succumb to the fast-food temptations.

Mr. Miceli, a senior from Dandridge, Tenn., intends to ask for a refund. Even so, he said, he regards the money as a loan to the university that he could not afford.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, in his Shopper-News column, offers some commentary after citing the article:

One has to wonder about the fairness of charging students and adding to their college costs for services they do not seek or use.

…The state Legislature may decide to enact a ban on mandatory fees for unwanted meals. It is not a lot different from workers at a plant who do not belong to a union being required to pay the equivalent of union fees. That triggered Tennessee’s right to work law many years ago.

TN Promise credited with adding 4,600 freshmen to higher ed enrollment

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s free-tuition program has contributed to a spike in students pursuing a postsecondary degree at the state’s public higher education institutions, the program’s executive director said Thursday.

Tennessee Promise offers eligible high school seniors free tuition to a two-year community or technical college.

According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, 50,699 first-time freshmen enrolled in a public higher education institution this year, compared with 46,030 last year.

Tennessee Promise Executive Director Mike Krause said that of the 21,706 students enrolled in community colleges, 16,291, or 75 percent, are in the governor’s program.

“It is very encouraging for Tennessee to see such a significant increase in the number of students enrolling in college this fall,” Haslam said in an email from his spokesman. “We wanted to change the culture of expectations around post-secondary education in our state, and these numbers from the Tennessee Promise’s first year show that happening.”
Continue reading

AG: $2.1M in student loans to 1,400 TN students to be forgiven

News release from Tennessee Attorney General’s office
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, along with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, today announced a settlement with Education Management Corporation (EDMC) that will lead to major reforms and student loan forgiveness. As part of the agreement, EDMC, a for-profit education company, is required to significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices, and forgive more than $2.1 million in loans for over 1,400 former Tennessee students.

EDMC, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, operates 110 schools in 32 states and Canada through four education systems, including Argosy University, The Art Institutes, Brown Mackie College and South University.

Tennessee, along with 38 states and the District of Columbia, conducted a multistate investigation after receiving complaints from current and former EDMC students. Nationwide, the agreement requires the for-profit college company to forgive $102.8 million in outstanding loan debt held by more than 80,000 former students.

“This agreement holds EDMC accountable to Tennessee students in two very important ways,” General Slatery said. “It not only provides some relief to a large number of former students through loan forgiveness, but it also helps ensure that the company will make substantial changes to its business practices for future students.”
Continue reading

UT conduct code rewrite delayed; state rep offers critique

State Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, is among critics of a new student code of conduct that’s in the works at the University of Tennessee, according to the News Sentinel.

The student code of conduct outlines expectations and the process to adjudicate violations. Changes like eliminating indefinite suspension as a sanction, adding medical amnesty to encourage students to ask for help and others are suggested.

It’s a total overhaul from the current code that’s been in place for decades with only minor tweaks, said Vince Carilli, vice chancellor for student life.

…Carilli planned to propose the new code, in the works since early 2014, at the June trustees’ meeting, but it was postponed after State Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, raised concerns about not being able to see the document before the meeting.

And now that Daniel has seen the proposed code (Note: It’s HERE), he said he doubts UT will be ready to present at the October meeting.

Daniel listed concerns and suggestions in a Sept. 4 seven-page letter to Carilli, stressing the new code is difficult and intimidating to read and students aren’t given due process. The goal should be student safety and a fair discipline process, he said.

“I think you can accomplish both,” Daniel said.

In his suggestions, Daniel said the conduct board should be all students instead of the proposed mix of students, faculty and staff so students can be judged by their peers similar to a jury in court.

And Daniel, a former Sigma Alpha Epsilon adviser at UT, said he hasn’t had a relationship with the UT Greek community in more than a decade, but has heard they would prefer the Greek judicial board, which adjudicates violations from that community, not be eliminated. In March 2013, a UT Greek Life Task Force issued a report that included ideas to curb alcohol violations from that community.

Carilli said adding faculty and staff to the conduct board provides continuity and teaching opportunities. Plus, he said no other student groups have a specialized board, so the Greeks shouldn’t either.

The elimination of this board is also expected to be a big topic of conversation for students, said Will Freeman, UT student government association president. He said another big topic with students will the amnesty policy.

Alexander welcomes Obama financial aid move

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is welcoming a move by the Obama administration to simplify federal financial aid applications, reports WPLN.

The Tennessee senator says the proposal will remove one of the major barriers to kids going to college. He hopes to have a streamlined form in place next year.

Alexander has pushed for years to make the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — or FAFSA — easier. Obama’s backing represents a breakthrough, the Republican lawmaker says.

“I mean we’ve got bipartisan support. And I learned a long time ago that if you’ve got a good idea, you push it, you work with other people, and you don’t care who gets credit for it. So I’m glad to have the president support it.”

The Obama administration announced last week that it would change the deadline for the FAFSA from January to October, a decision that’s meant to make it easier for families to gather the tax information needed. The IRS will even help fill the form out.

Alexander wants to go even farther. He’d like to shorten the FAFSA from 108 questions to a form the size of a postcard.

Hargett: If you don’t do politics, politics will be done to you

The Times-Free Press has an article on Tre Hargett’s voter registration promotion on Tennessee college campuses and voting patterns among the college age crowd.

“We really feel like it’s important, especially for this generation of voters, who has been — in so many ways — disengaged,” said Hargett during a reception at Lee (University in Cleveland). “If we are going to have a great future for this country and solve problems across this nation, we have to get this generation engaged.”

He mentioned a student he met on another campus who told Hargett he didn’t “do politics.”

“Make no mistake about it,” Hargett said. “You can say you don’t do politics, but politics will be done to you.”

The Lee event kicked off in a jubilant atmosphere, with a steady stream of students lining up at registration tables. It will continue today and run through Tuesday, school officials said.

…The online Independent Journal, a nonpartisan reporting site, quoted a Harvard Institute of Politics study saying only 40 percent of likely voters aged 18 to 29 are hoping a Republican wins the White House next year, vs. 55 percent who want a Democrat to win.

Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee, said in the Independent Journal that the GOP is boosting its presence on college campuses

“A strong point the Democrats had is that they’re very good at creating a sense of community,” Williams, 26, told the Independent Journal.

“After 2012, Republicans have been working to build a community of young conservatives, and the results of 2014 show we are making headway.”

Meanwhile the California Independent Voter Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that offers education on public policy issues, says polling indicates younger voters are becoming more socially liberal.

Note: Previous post HERE.

Licenses of thousands suspended for student loan default (most reinstated)

More than 4,200 Tennessee professionals have have had their licenses suspended for defaulting on student loans since 2009 according to figures from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corp. reported by the Times-Free Press. Of the 4,200 who have lost their licenses, 3,185 have been reinstated after getting on a payment plan.

“It’s a last-ditch effort on our part to catch their attention,” said Peter Abernathy, TSAC staff attorney. “Many have gone years without making a payment. This, it has been a helpful thing to help get them back into compliance and good standing with their credit.”

…Still, others question whether the policy is counterproductive, especially in a time when student loan default rates are at historic highs.

“If you can’t pay your student loans and all of the sudden you can’t work, you’re in a Catch-22,” said Sharon Adkins, executive director of the Tennessee Nurses Association. Behind cosmetologists, RNs and nurse aides had the highest rates of suspensions.

Such questioning has driven lawmakers in some other states to revisit such laws. This year, Montana legislators repealed a bill that allowed revocation of professional and driver’s licenses. The bill’s sponsor called it “unnecessarily punitive.”

…Tennessee’s 1999 statute applied to all professions under the Tennessee Department of Health and most boards under the Department of Commerce and Insurance — but the state only began enforcing it a decade later.

In 2012, lawmakers passed another bill that added all other licensed professions to the list, including teachers and lobbyists.

…Contrary to the national rates, Tennessee’s student loan default rate has been going down over the last several years following an increase during the recession. It is now around 9 percent, compared to the national rate of 13 percent.

‘Undue influence’ alleged in discipline of UT student athletes

Former University of Tennessee Vice Chancellor Tim Rogers says the athletics department inappropriately pressured officials in charge of campus discipline and exerted undue influence that placed students and institutional integrity in “peril,” reports The Tennessean.

The former vice chancellor for student life confirmed to The Tennessean that he authored documents that outlined his concerns about pressure from athletics department administrators regarding how athletes should be disciplined for misconduct ranging from minor infractions to sexual assaults.

Rogers took his concerns to University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek in the spring of 2013 shortly before Rogers’ abrupt retirement, which he attributed to an “intolerable situation.” In a meeting with DiPietro, Rogers blamed Cheek for enabling athletics to wield undue influence over the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. Those concerns are enumerated in the documents obtained by The Tennessean.

At issue was whether Rogers’ staff was pressured to be more lenient in the discipline imposed on student-athletes. Cheek told The Tennessean that by 2013 he had heard from several stakeholders, including the athletics department, that Rogers’ staff was too strict in how it disciplined athletes and non-athletes.

The revelation of Rogers’ 2013 documents alleging interference by the UT athletics department on student discipline comes amid growing scrutiny of the university after several misconduct allegations against football players. At least five players on the 2014 roster have been accused of sexual assault.

…DiPietro told The Tennessean he took Rogers’ allegations seriously. He said he met individually with Cheek several times. He also had one meeting with both Cheek and Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director Dave Hart to discuss Rogers’ concerns. Both Cheek and Hart assured DiPietro there was no undue influence by athletics on cases involving student-athletes.