Recently, one of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's signature pieces of legislation was signed into law. The Tennessee Promise gives high-school seniors (starting with the Class of 2015) who graduate from a Tennessee eligible high school or a Tennessee home school program the opportunity to attend any of Tennessee’s 27 colleges of applied technology (TCATs), 13 community colleges or any in-state independent or four-year public university offering an associate’s degree...for free. Tennessee will be the only state in the nation to offer this tuition-waiver program.
In reviewing the materials presented, these are the key points that most people want to know.
How will it be paid for?
The Tennessee Promise will be funded within existing resources by interest from the newly established Tennessee Promise endowment and by changing the HOPE award for students attending community colleges from $2,000 per year to $3,000 per year, while reducing the award amount at the four-year institutions for freshmen and sophomores from $4,000 per year to $3,000 per year. The endowment will continue to grow as any net lottery proceeds above the general shortfall reserve will be added to the Tennessee Promise endowment
What are the student requirements?
To receive Tennessee Promise, a student must:
1. Participate and meet all requirements of a Tennessee Promise partnering organization.
2. Apply senior year and meet established application deadlines.
3. Attend all scheduled team meetings and a mandatory college orientation.
4. Begin at the postsecondary institution in the fall directly following high school graduation and remain at an
eligible institution for consecutive semesters. (A student may begin at his/her postsecondary institution in
the spring or summer directly following high school graduation; however, the student will be responsible for
incurred tuition and fees until fall.)
5. Maintain at least 12 hours each semester.
6. Attend a postsecondary institution for consecutive semesters. (If a student withdraws from all classes during
the semester, he/she will no longer be eligible.)
7. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by February 1st
of each year beginning in high school and throughout his/her postsecondary experience
8. Maintain satisfactory academic progress. At most institutions, this is the equivalent of maintaining a 2.0 GPA
9. Complete at least eight hours of community service each semester.
What are the requirements of a partnering organization that will administer Tennessee Promise?
In order to administer Tennessee Promise funds, an organization must:
1. Operate as a college access and success program serving Tennessee students and adopt the student
requirements of the Tennessee Promise scholarship.
2. Partner with Tennessee community and technical colleges.
3. Offer a mentoring program to students with a maximum 10:1 student to mentor ratio.
4. Organize local or regional advisory councils to serve as advocates for the program.
5. Sustain operations without state funding.
In the rural area where I am from, this investment into our children's future via practical skills obtainment is an opportunity for our kids to be workforce ready without the burden of student loans. It keeps the bar low enough to accommodate our kids who have had life challenges, yet raises the bar for their involvement in the process. I especially like the eight hours of community service each semester. If more of our kids understand the circle of life that they live in, the better adjusted they will be as they find their own place in that circle.
Nothing in life is free. But a hand-up for our kids is exactly where I would invest my time and money. The rest will be up to them. I like the odds better with this program in place. Keep playing lottery everyone!