At a time when families are going into debt to pay for school, Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee has come up with a plan to encourage high school students to graduate and then keep them in Tennessee to work and go to college. His plan also encourages adults to return to college in order to improve their lives.
A Promise For The Future
The ‘Tennessee Promise’ provides free tuition and fees to students who graduate from a Tennessee high school to attend an in-state community college or technical center. The governor’s plan, which he first presented in February and was just approved by the Tennessee Senate and House, will be paid for by allocating $300 million from the state lottery’s reserve fund.
The average cost of a two-year degree at a community college nationwide for 2013 was a bit over $10,000. Putting that money back in the pocket of a student or their family is a make or break amount for those struggling to make ends meet while dealing with long-term unemployment or with only part-time employment to pay the bills.
In order to qualify, graduating Tennessee high seniors will have to complete the following requirements:
- Fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
- Work with an assigned mentor from the program
- Attend orientation at a Tennessee community college
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress
- Perform at least one day of community service per semester
The first class to be able to take advantage of the new program will be Fall 2015 Seniors. Right now, Governor Haslam’s office is predicting over 25,000 eligible students will apply.
Increase College Graduates
This isn’t the only trick up his sleeve though. Tennessee Promise is only one part of his workforce ready program, “Drive To 55”. What Haslam is trying to do is increase the number of Tennesseans with a college degree to 55 percent by the year 2025. At this time, the state is ranked 43rd in the number of adults (32 percent) with a degree or advanced training certificate. In order to accomplish this, the state will need to add 490,000 degrees to its population. His desire is to increase their own graduates in order to keep the jobs already in Tennessee and to encourage economic growth of both businesses and the personal income of the state’s citizens. In addition to Tennessee Promise, there is also Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Leap.
Improving Employment Opportunities
Tennessee Reconnect is a scholarship program designed to bring adults back into the classroom to either complete their college degree or earn a training certificate in order to increase employment opportunities. In particular, Governor Haslam is hoping to push technical skills and training by changing one program and adding another
- Students will now be able to receive a Wilder-Naifeh Grant in addition to receiving a HOPE Scholarship if they qualify. Previously, if students had received this scholarship for a two-year degree, they were unable to apply in order to help finish covering their costs.
- Creation of a “Last-Dollar” Scholarship. This will assist students enrolled in a Tennessee technical college (TCAT) in paying off the last of their tuition and fees after all other financial aid options have been exhausted.
Tennessee Leap is designed to line-up educational requirements of Tennessee businesses with the curriculum being taught in Tennessee schools. This is supposed to eliminate what are called “skill gaps” so that employers will find the workers they need in state and not have to recruit elsewhere. $10 Million has been earmarked to help schools build new training programs and purchase new equipment to support LEAP.
Leading The Way
While other states have commented and made plans about providing free technical school and community college tuition, Tennessee is the only state so far to pass the legislation needed to make it a reality. To stay on top of this and other changes to funding a college education, please check in with us here at Student Debt Relief daily.