Graduates from any of Nashville’s 20 public high schools can now get a two-year degree paid for by philanthropists. The program anticipates to fund tuition for hundreds of students starting next fall.
High school seniors must first apply for all of the state and federal grants available to them. After that, Mayor Karl Dean says the program – dubbed nashvilleAchieves – will cover the rest.
“They can go to college – community college – for free. And they might not have been thinking they could go to college, and now they do know they can go, and a lot of them will take advantage of it.”
Students like Nathan Young are the target. He would be the first-generation in his family to attend college. He says he was already thinking about applying to a four-year school like Tennessee State University.
“I was looking at TSU, but with this thing coming up, I might look at Nashville State.”
The program would also pair up Young with a mentor to help guide him through the maze of financial aid forms.
More than a million dollars has already been lined up for tuition payments. Randy Boyd, who helped start knoxAchieves in Knoxville, donated $100,000. Metro Government is also pitching in $750,000 over the course of two years. But there is still a need for more than 300 mentors.
Mayor Dean set a goal to double the city’s college graduation rate in five years. That was in 2011. On Monday, Dean was less committal, saying, “it will be difficult, but we will strive for it.”