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Tennessee Promises Free Community/Technical College Education

April 16, 2014

Tennessee legislators overwhelmingly approved Gov. Bill Haslam's cornerstone proposal for addressing affordability and accessibility issues plaguing higher education while at the same time making a substantial commitment toward future workforce preparedness: free community/technical college tuition. First unveiled in his February State of the State address, "Tennessee Promise" guarantees every graduating high school student may enjoy tuition-free attendance at any institution within the state's system of community colleges and colleges of applied technology.

The program, slated to start in the fall of 2015, will be designed to allow students to earn an associate's degree at the community and technical colleges or, if they choose, transfer to one of the state's public universities as juniors to complete a full-four year degree — effectively cutting the cost of college in half for participating students. Transferring credits from two-year to four-year schools, often a stumbling block in many states, is ensured through the Tennessee Transfer Pathways Guarantee, created by the governor and legislature in 2010.

To help further incentivize students to take advantage of the community college track, the legislation creating the Tennessee Promise also reduces the state's scholarship assistance for freshmen and sophomores attending the state's four-year universities.

It is expected that 55 percent of all Tennessee jobs will require a certificate, credentialing or degree by 2025. Presently, only 32 percent of the state's workforce can meet that standard. The Tennessee Promise is an aggressive commitment by the state's government to help its residents address this issue.

The Tennessee Promise will be funded through an endowment created from state lottery proceeds and administered by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation.

SB 2471 is available at: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2471.

Tennesseestate budget, higher ed, education