Tennessee Promise students begin classes

Access is good, success is key, says governor

The first Tennessee Promise students began class on Monday, boosting enrollment numbers at after years of decline at community colleges, Kendi Anderson reports for the Times Free Press.

The program, signed into law last year, gives full scholarships at the state's technical and community colleges to any student who completes the proper paperwork, and meets with a mentor during the application process, and performs eight hours of community service each term. The initiative is part of Gov. Bill Haslam's (R) push for 55% of the state's adult residents to have a college degree by 2025.

At Chattanooga State Community College, incoming high-school graduates account for 1,100 students—up from 700 last year. Meanwhile, Cleveland State Community College saw freshmen enrollments jump 16%.

"This growth comes after four years of decreasing enrollment, so it is clear that Tennessee Promise is making a big different here at Cleveland State and in our communities," President Bill Seymour said on Monday.

But simply getting students to enroll is not enough, Haslam says. "The object is to have [them] graduate."

Backing up that statement is the fact that institutions' state-funding is tied to the percentage of Tennessee Promise students that complete a degree.

Free tuition may not be enough to improve access to degrees

To improve each student's chances of making it to graduation or a transfer to a four-year institution, community colleges enacted various student success programs, such as requiring freshmen to take a course on study habits and time management, encouraging enrollment in 15 credits, and assigning personal faculty advisors and completion coaches.

"The idea [of Tennessee Promise] isn't just about access, but success," Haslam says (Anderson, Times Free Press, 8/25).

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