Student’s bill moves to Nashville

Lesli Bales-SherrodOur Town Youth, West Knox County

A Pellissippi State Community College student has authored a bill that will be submitted to the 2022 Tennessee General Assembly.

“I was extremely excited to find out my bill was going to be sent on!” said Anika Schultz, who serves as the College’s Student Government Association secretary. “I see a large need for this bill to become a law as too many students are missing out on the Tennessee Promise scholarship and end up having to pay out of pocket for their tuition.”

Schultz authored the bill for the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature in November. Commonly referred to by its acronym TISL, the annual event allows college students from across the state to act as a mock Senate and House of Representatives, meeting in the legislative chambers of the State Capitol to exchange ideas, express their opinions and learn how government works.

Pellissippi State sent six students to TISL in 2021, the first year under Student Engagement and Leadership director Matt Sprakerand political science instructor Jesse Cragwall. Schultz served as a senator while students Caity Southall, Samantha Russell, Erin Russell and Aundrea Harding served as representatives and Schylar Longas as a lobbyist.

Schultz, who graduated from high school in May 2021 with a semester of college credits thanks to dual enrollment classes, worked with Cragwall to draft a bill to amend the legislation that established and governs the Tennessee Promise scholarship:

  • To allow students who fall below 12 credit hours during a semester to be put on probation for a semester instead of revoking the scholarship and
  • To increase the age limit to allow students to take a gap year between high school and college or to apply if they missed the deadline while still in high school.

“We have seen an issue with many people not applying for the Tennessee Promise because they don’t want to go to college right away because they don’t know what they want to study,” Schultz explained. “And if they miss the deadline to apply, they have to wait until they’re old enough to qualify for Tennessee Reconnect to come back as an adult learner, when what we want is for people to go to college and pursue an education.”

Meanwhile, loosening the requirement of staying at full-time hours to maintain the scholarship would help those who drop a class one semester, she added.

“There are many people who end up losing their scholarships from having to drop a class,” Schultz noted. “You can’t always maintain full-time hours and have lives outside of school.”

Schultz’s bill was sponsored by Southall in the TISL House and passed almost unanimously. When it came to the Senate, Schultz had the opportunity to speak on the chamber floor, even though there was no debate on the bill.

“I thought, ‘This is my dream!’” Schultz remembered. “‘I am in my element!’”

Schultz’s bill passed the TISL Senate unanimously and was signed by the TISL governor the next day. It is one of 10 bills that will be submitted to the 2022 Tennessee General Assembly.

“This was a very good experience,” said Schultz, who plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee and is considering a double major in communications and political science. “Now I know firsthand how government works and learning how government works is a valuable thing even if you don’t want to go into government. That’s the very foundation of our country. I hope we can get even more people interested in going to TISL next year!”

Cragwall has been researching how many people would be affected by this bill if it were adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly.

“Anika is in one of my classes, and she’s definitely motivated to take advantage of learning opportunities inside and outside of school,” said Cragwall, who interned on Capitol Hill when he was an undergraduate at Maryville College. “What are the building blocks she needs? TISL gives students a good hands-on approach to how state government works.”

Lesli Bales-Sherrod does marketing and writing for Pellissippi State Community College.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *