Tennessee Promise paying off

May 17, 2018

New data analyzing the first cohort of Tennessee Promise students reveals a higher graduation rate and increased number of students earning a college credential when compared to the previous year’s non-Promise cohort. The inaugural class of Tennessee Promise students graduated from high school in 2015 and completed their five semesters of eligibility in December. The program is showing impressive early results including:

  • Its 21.5 percent graduation rate through five semesters was up from the 13.8 percent of the 2014 group after the same period of time.
  • The number of students who earned a degree or technical certificate through five semesters saw a 60 percent increase (1,790 in 2014 comparted to 2,857 in 2015).
  • In Fall 2015, the number of first-time freshmen at community colleges grew by 4,300 students, a 24.7 percent increase.
  • Overall, 3,257 students in the 2015 cohort earned a degree or certificate within five semesters, an 82 percent increase over the pre-Promise 2014 group. 

The program was proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam and approved in 2014, a part of the state Drive to 55 initiative, intended to increase the number of Tennesseans with a college degree or credential to 55 percent of the population by 2025. The Promise program was the nation’s first statewide free community college effort, and last year the state expanded its reach with the Tennessee Reconnect legislation that offers free tuition to adults who have been out of school for longer periods of time or who may have never attended college.

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