Does The Math Work On Haslam’s Free Community College Plan?

Treasurer David Lillard (left) oversees much of the state's cash, including the more than $400 million lottery reserve fund which would be used under Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to pay for community college. Credit: TN Photo Services

Treasurer David Lillard (left) oversees much of the state’s cash, including the more than $400 million lottery reserve fund which would be used under Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to pay for community college. Credit: TN Photo Services

One of the outstanding questions on Governor Bill Haslam’s plan to offer free community college is whether the financing will really work. That’s even a question to the state’s top money-man, Treasurer David Lillard.

The state estimates spending $34 million a year to provide scholarships for anyone without another way to go to a 2-year school. The tuition would be paid for in part by investing a major chunk of reserve funds from the state lottery – $300 million or so. The funding would also come from modifying the 4-year HOPE scholarship, reducing the amounts given to freshmen and sophomores.

So do the numbers add up? Lillard says “no comment.” Even though he oversees the lottery reserve funds in question, he hasn’t been closely consulted by the governor.

“I’m sure [the Haslam Administration] will talk to me at the appropriate time about it,” Lillard said Thursday. “I don’t think that’s unusual at this point in time and all. But as the bill works its way through the General Assembly, I’m sure I’ll be consulted by members of the legislature about it.”

Asked why the treasurer has been relatively out of the loop, a spokesman for the Haslam Administration said a meeting was set up for Friday. He added this: “We feel good about the math.”

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