Lawmakers just approved legislation that will expand the Tennessee Promise program. It made community college free for recent high school graduates enrolled in technical school or community colleges.
It allows adults who do not have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to enter for free.
Governor Bill Haslam will sign the bill into law. Earlier this year, he proposed the legislation in the State of the State address. This is a cornerstone of Haslam’s initiative to increase the number of people with a college education to 55 percent by 2025.
Last year, less than 40 percent of residents had gone to college.
“If we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs, and there is no smarter investment than increasing access to high-quality education,” Haslam said.
To be eligible, one must have been a state resident for at least one year, enroll in enough classes to be a part-time student, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Once fully implemented, the free-tuition program will cost about $10 million but it will be funded by the state’s lottery account.
This will allow students to save around $3,700 per year, which is the average cost of tuition and fees at the state. For those who have received a need-based Pell Grant, Tennessee will cover all remaining costs.
The tuition-free college has gained traction since Haslam pushed the program in 2014. Oregon made community college free for high school grads and GED recipients. San Francisco will also make community college free starting this autumn.
In its first two years, over 33,000 students have already benefited from the Tennessee Promise program.
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