Tennessee Promise | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Promise

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The Tennessee Board of Regents released data last week that attempts to answer the main question behind Tennessee Promise: Does giving away two years of free community college ultimately translate into more degrees? 

The answer, the data suggests, is yes. But the gains are a little more modest than officials were probably hoping for.

More: See the breakdown of Tennessee Promise data

Tennessee college students photo
TN Photo Services

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.

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Helping Tennesseans go to college takes more than giving them free tuition: That's one of the takeaways from a report released Monday by Complete Tennessee, a nonprofit that tracks higher education in the state.

Courtesy of Kate Derrick / Tennessee Higher Education Commission

  

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. 

Tennessee Reconnect / via Facebook

Time and money.

Two things that, for most working Tennesseans, there's never enough of.

Tony Kinkel, the president of Motlow State Community College, says it's hard to decide which is the bigger hurdle.

Tennessee college students photo
TN Photo Services

More students are staying in school under Tennessee's free community college program, according to new data from the state.

In the fall, 58 percent of Tennessee Promise students enrolled for a second year of community college, compared to 42 percent of students outside the program. 

Stephen Jerkins / WPLN

Gov. Bill Haslam wants to expand his program to provide free community college to all Tennesseans.

That was the biggest revelation to come out of his annual State of the State address.

Tennessee Promise — the statewide program that allows high school graduates to go to community college for free — seems to be boosting the number of students returning for a second year, according to preliminary data. 

The state hasn't yet released official retention numbers from the first class of Tennessee Promise. But a handful of schools in Middle Tennessee are reporting higher retention rates.

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In the hopes of seeing more students go to college, Tennessee education officials are pushing high school seniors to fill out federal financial aid forms earlier than ever before. 

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Tennessee is launching an intensive college counseling program in 30 public high schools this fall. But officials haven't yet said which schools will get the extra help.

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