In 2014, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed and guided Tennessee Promise into law, using proceeds from the lottery to provide residents with free tuition at community colleges and colleges of applied technology. The inaugural class of Tennessee Promise students will enroll in the Fall of 2015.
Both a scholarship and mentoring program, it will provide students a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship or TSAA funds. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program.
While removing the financial burden is key, a critical component of Tennessee Promise is the individual guidance each participant will receive from a mentor who will assist the student as he or she navigates the college admissions process. In addition, Tennessee Promise participants must complete eight hours of community service per term enrolled, as well as maintain satisfactory academic progress (2.0 GPA) at their institution.
While the program has drawn much acclaim nationally — including attention at the White House College Opportunity Day of Action in December — Memphis Democratic congressman Steve Cohen recently criticized the Tennessee Promise in the Tennessean.