Credit Randy Boyd or Krissy DeAlejandro or even Mike Ragsdale, but Gov. Bill Haslam carried the baton for the last lap of the relay and Tennessee Promise is his signature achievement. Haslam spoke at Cleveland State Community College commencement May 6, saluting the first class of Tennessee Promise graduates. He will do the same at Southwest Community College in Memphis on May 13.
Launched in 2014, Tennessee Promise is the nation’s first scholarship and mentorship program offering high school graduates two years of community college or technical school free of tuition and fees. It is a last-dollar scholarship funded by the state’s lottery for education account and not through tax dollars. Initial data show that more Tennesseans are going to college, fewer need remediation when they get there and student borrowing is down, according to a state press release.
As a result of Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, statewide data show:
** First-time freshmen enrollment has increased 30 percent at community colleges and overall enrollment has increased 32 percent at technical colleges (TCATs).
** More than 33,000 students have enrolled in college as a result of Tennessee Promise, and of the students who began in fall 2015, 63 percent are still enrolled at community colleges and 83 percent are enrolled at TCATs.
** At community colleges, Tennessee Promise students had significantly higher retention rates (58 percent) than non-Promise, first-time freshmen (42 percent).
** For a second year in a row, Tennessee led the nation in FAFSA filings (70.3 percent of the class of 2016) and is on track to maintain that for a third year.
** Since implementation of Tennessee Promise, student loan originations decreased by 17 percent, and the average federal student loan amount decreased by 12 percent.