Entry gate at Tennessee State University in Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Tennessee State University’s board could get at least one more year to implement changes to fix scholarship and on-campus housing problems.
Lawmakers voted to recommend extending the life of the school’s board for an additional year at a hearing Monday. The bipartisan recommendation comes from members of a joint House and Senate government operations subcommittee, which met to discuss whether it should vacate the university’s board.
Other House and Senate committees, as well as both chambers, will have to approve the government operations subcommittee’s recommendation before the measure is finalized — leaving the door open for lawmakers to implement other changes for TSU.
Last week, Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower presented a special report on why the historically Black university in Nashville needed to house students at hotels and was slow to process scholarships. Several students and parents filed complaints with the state.
TSU board chair Deborah Cole said she acknowledged the issues identified in the Comptroller’s report, adding that the board was implementing several additional oversight layers to prevent further problems.
The report included 12 policy recommendations, suggesting legislators appoint a new board, hire new university management, institute numerous restrictions on scholarships and enrollment and add the university back to the Tennessee Board of Regents for oversight.
Mumpower said the school has had student housing problems since 2017, but despite this, it tried and succeeded in substantially increasing enrollment in 2021.
TSU’s student body increased from around 7,600 in 2020 to 9,200 in 2022. HBCUs nationwide experienced an increase in students around the same time.
“While it’s clear TSU has a goal to increase its enrollment,” Mumpower said. “It should only do that if it is prepared to serve its students.”
Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, said the Comptroller’s report “cherry-picked” scenarios to put TSU in a “bad light.”
“They’ve owned up to the problems, listened to the recommendations and are taking steps to improve,” Oliver said.
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