Tennessee Promise Celebrates 10 Years of Educational Opportunities

Tennessee Promise has enrolled over 150,000 students in a decade, providing free tuition for higher education.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) marks the 10-year anniversary of the Tennessee Promise program on May 12, 2024. This program has been a cornerstone in Tennessee’s commitment to making higher education more accessible. Since its inception in 2014, Tennessee Promise has facilitated the enrollment of over 150,000 students with $207 million in funding. This initiative underscores Tennessee’s pioneering role in the country for implementing a college promise program that offers free tuition.

Tennessee Promise is designed to support eligible high school seniors in obtaining a technical certificate or associate degree without the burden of tuition and mandatory fees, which are not covered by other financial aid. THEC, in partnership with tnAchieves and the Ayers Foundation Trust, ensures that applicants receive continuous support throughout their educational journey, including fulfilling additional requirements such as attending mandatory meetings and completing community service.

The introduction of Tennessee Promise has significantly boosted the college-going rate in Tennessee. Following the program’s introduction for the high school class of 2015, the rate increased by nearly six percentage points to 64.4%, translating to almost 4,000 additional students enrolling in college directly after high school. The class of 2024 witnessed a record-breaking number of over 66,000 seniors applying for the program, indicating its growing popularity and success.

Dr. Steven Gentile, Executive Director of THEC, highlighted the transformative impact of Tennessee Promise on students across the state, emphasizing its role in enhancing workforce readiness, economic development, and quality of life in Tennessee. The program’s success is further evidenced by the increasing number of Tennesseans earning technical credentials, with nearly 17% of Tennessee Promise enrollments at TCAT campuses, up from 12% in the first year.

Governor Bill Lee’s administration has shown unwavering support for Tennessee Promise, with a nearly $1 billion investment aimed at expanding TCAT growth in 2023. This investment is set to enhance educational opportunities and support Tennessee’s economic development by aligning education with workforce needs. The Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) is overseeing 29 major projects across the state, which are expected to be completed in 2025 and 2026.

State officials, including Senator Jon Lundberg and Senator Mark White, have expressed pride in the program’s impact on students and families, emphasizing Tennessee’s commitment to providing free tuition for vocational or two-year college degrees to high school graduates. As Tennessee Promise enters its second decade, THEC is dedicated to expanding educational pathways and opportunities for Tennesseans.

For more information about Tennessee Promise and to access the latest report, interested parties can visit collegefortn.org/tnpromise.

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