Private Colleges Begin Wooing The Students Coming Through Tennessee Promise

Mar 6, 2017

  

The first class of students who went to community college for free under Tennessee Promise is graduating this spring. Some might go straight into the workforce, some plan to transfer to public universities — but private colleges are starting to make a concerted effort to recruit them, too. 

One of these efforts comes in the form of a scholarship, a potentially hefty one: Tennessee Promise students transferring to Lipscomb University will receive at least $10,000, making up more than a third of their tuition. The university announced the "Lipscomb Promise" scholarship last week.

“A substantial amount of their education will be funded by this university," said university president Randy Lowry. "That, in partnership with state resources ... [and] with their own resources and work, should provide them with the opportunity for this kind of college experience.”

This award is not actually new — Lipscomb already offered the $10,000-plus scholarship to transfer students, under a different name, in past years. Lebron Hill, a junior, says the "Lipscomb Pathways" award was an integral part of his deciding to transfer from Motlow State Community College last year.

"The money was a main factor in my choice, so I'm glad I was able to get the scholarship," he says.

So "Lipscomb Promise" is essentially a rebranding. But changing the wording is not insignificant — after all, the entire Tennessee Promise program showed that marketing makes a difference. The governor has acknowledged that a huge part of its success is the fact that it proactively labels community college as "free," even though it was already free for many students because they qualified for federal financial aid.

Mike Krause, who oversees the Tennessee Promise program and the state's higher education commission, says he expects calling the scholarship "Lipscomb Promise" will make a difference.

“I think this is a place where the brand matters. You’re able to tell a student who’s really gotten used to the Tennessee Promise message [that college is affordable for everyone]: 'Hey, the promise can continue. It can continue at Lipscomb,’ " he says.

Carson-Newman University, a private school in Jefferson City, and some public university like MTSU have also created special branded scholarships for Tennessee Promise students. Krause hopes more colleges will feel “peer pressure to follow suit."