Applications For Tennessee Promise Open As Its First Class Finishes

Aug 1, 2017

School hasn't even started for most students, but state officials want high school seniors to start planning for after graduation.

Starting today, the class of 2018 can apply for Tennessee Promise, the governor's signature education plan allowing high school graduates to attend community or technical college tuition-free. Students have to apply to the program by Nov. 1.

Participation in Tennessee Promise has been high ever since the program began in 2014. It's also grown steadily ever since: Last fall, 60,780 high school seniors applied, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Many schools attempt to get every student to fill out the application, even if they don't plan to go to community college, which boosts application numbers. 

More: One Nashville High School Is Tracking Down Every Senior To Sign Up For Tennessee Promise

But the true test of Tennessee Promise is completion: how many students who start the program receive their degrees within five semesters, the time limit for free tuition. The very first cohort started college in fall 2015, so some students finished this spring — four semesters in — but state officials say they won't release completion data until after this fall.

The First Cohort So Far

More than 58,000 high school seniors applied for Tennessee Promise in 2014, the program's inaugural year. Since then, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission... 

  • 38,165 of those students filed their FAFSA — federal financial aid applications — which is a requirement of Tennessee Promise. The state successfully minimized that drop-off with the following cohort.
  • 22,500 attended two mandatory meetings and completed eight hours of community service, an indication of how serious students are in their intention to attend community or technical college.
  • 16,291 students began college tuition-free, as part of the Tennessee Promise program, in the fall of 2015.
  • 10,236 students re-enrolled for a second year of school in the fall of 2016.
  • Of those, 6,612 students were still technically part of Tennessee Promise. The rest were enrolled but no longer were eligible for the program.