State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, says the state should pay college students’ tuition and fees for two years if they attend a public community college in the state.

In a higher education proposal announced Thursday, Van de Putte called for amending the state constitution to create the “Texas Promise Scholarship Program” by pulling $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to underwrite scholarships for some high school graduates who are planning to attend a community college, technical college or a two-year state institution.

Under the scholarship requirements under her proposal, students would have to graduate from a Texas high school and qualify for in-state tuition. They would also be required to apply for federal or state financial assistance and apply those funds toward tuition and fees before receiving money from the Texas Promise program.

Van de Putte said her higher education plan is intended to remove barriers students face in obtaining degrees and jobs. She said the program would benefit students who don't qualify for existing state higher education grants and have not received merit-based scholarships.

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“Every hard-working high school graduate in Texas deserves an opportunity to go to college, receive technical education and obtain post-high school credentials,” Van de Putte said in a statement. “It is time to get Texans prepared for the jobs of the future.”

Van de Putte’s proposal is based on a similar program called the “Tennessee Promise,” which her campaign highlighted was signed into law by a Republican governor and received bipartisan support.

Alejandro Garcia, a spokesman for her Republican opponent state Sen. Dan Patrick, criticized Van de Putte’s plan because it would increase spending. He added that Patrick had worked to create partnerships between school districts and higher education institutions by reforming graduation plans at no financial cost to the state. 

“Van de Putte has simply recycled the Tennessee Promise and claimed it her own,” Garcia said. “Once again, she has chosen to spend more money to achieve less.”

Van de Putte’s campaign emphasized that the program would not require imposing new taxes because it would be funded using interest from the $2 billion worth of existing funds that would be allocated to the Texas Promise fund if voters approve the constitutional amendment.