Tennessee Promise sees record enrollment

11/10/2016

Tennessee Promise, the state’s free community college program, drew more than 60,000 students who enrolled by this week’s deadline — a record number in the program’s third year.

In Knox County, where a version of the program has been in place for eight years, 3,847 students applied for the program in 2016. That’s up from 3,798 last year.

Across the state, the program drew 58,286 students in its first year and 59,621 last year. Only about a third of those students end up using the Tennessee Promise program — many still end up going to four-year colleges, said Mike Krause, director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

“It’s really encouraging to see every year the program receiving more momentum,” Krause said. “The important metric isn’t about who ends up using TN promise, what overall attendance to college does.”

Tennessee’s college-going rate went up 4.6 percentage points in the first year of the Tennessee Promise, which is more than the previous three years combined, he said. So far, 15 other states have reached out to Tennessee for information on the program. Eight have become “incredibly serious” about setting up similar programs and sought help from Tennessee officials, Krause said.

The program was noticed by President Barack Obama, who last year announced a proposal for a nationwide version modeled off of Tennessee’s program.

Such attention has helped improve the state’s national reputation for education, moving Tennessee from its longstanding position as one of the bottom tier states, Krause said.

“We’re now viewed as a national leader in higher education innovation,” Krause said. “When we launched promise — first in nation to do it; if we could have seen three years ago what it is now, we would have been really excited.”

 “With this record number of applicants and a number of other indicators, it’s clear that Tennessee Promise is changing the conversation around going to college in Tennessee,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement.

The state is now trying to recruit 9,000 mentors by Nov. 20. So far, 4,500 mentors have committed and only two counties — Hawkins and Grundy — have met their goals for 2017. Mentors are required to be at least 21, attend a one-hour training session and two, one-hour meetings with their students over the course of a year.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Megan Boehnke

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org

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