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TN. Gov . Bill Haslam’s Monthly Column

Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Last week during my annual State of the State address, I was excited to announce a new proposal called the “Tennessee Promise.” 

The Tennessee Promise is an ongoing commitment to Tennessee students – from kindergartners to high school seniors.  We will promise that high school graduates can attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free of tuition and fees. 

As we urge more Tennesseans to continue their education, we know we have to remove as many barriers as possible.  For many Tennessee families, cost is the biggest hurdle to further education. 

Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are raising our expectations as a state.  We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee.  More Tennesseans have to believe that earning a certificate or degree beyond high school is not only necessary but possible.

Tennessee will be the only state in the country to offer our high school graduates two years of community college with no tuition or fees along with the support of dedicated mentors.

We are also proposing last dollar scholarships for all adults – regardless of age or previous qualification for a HOPE scholarship – to attend our Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) free of charge. 

We are putting our resources toward proven results.  With 27 locations across the state, our TCATs graduate 81 percent of their students and match more than 86 percent of those graduates with jobs.  TCATs work with local businesses to understand job demand and to keep up with the skills and training needed to fill those jobs.

Non-profit, private organizations will be part of the Tennessee Promise to help ensure that 100 percent of the money goes directly to the student by eliminating administrative costs.  They will provide mentors to help navigate the enrollment process as well as provide support during the school year.  Access is only successful when it leads to completion.

The Tennessee Promise can only be a true promise if it is sustainable over time.  It can’t be based on year-to-year budgets, or changing legislatures, or new administrations.  That’s why I recommended funding it through an endowment using lottery reserve funds. 

This is a bold promise.  It is a promise that will speak volumes to current and prospective employers.  It is a promise that will make a real difference for generations of Tennesseans.  And it is a promise that we have the ability to make.  I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to make the Tennessee Promise a reality for Tennessee families.