Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) has proposed that everyone graduating high school in that state should be eligible for a college education – for free. In what is being hailed at the US.’s first ever program to offer higher education to everyone, 2 year community colleges and tech schools will be free, and 4 year colleges will be available at greatly reduced rates.
“The Tennessee Promise” is the name of the proposed program, and Governor Haslam says of it:
[box type=”shadow”]“The Tennessee Promise is an ongoing commitment to every student from every kindergartner to every high school senior. We will promise that he or she can attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free.”[/box]
At the end of community college or tech school, students would then be eligible for two more years at a four-year university at lowered rates. There’s nothing to stop a student from attending a four-year school straight out of high school if they can afford it. This program instead offers college to a large number of people who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend. Without a degree, people are caught in a cycle of poverty where they can’t get work that pays well without a degree, and without a degree, they can’t find work that would allow them to afford college.
Governor Haslam insists that the state of Tennessee can not only afford to pay for the educations of all high school graduates, but also believes the state cannot afford not to pay for the additional education, seeing education as an investment in the financial future of Tennessee. State officials are estimating that approximately 40% of of the graduating class of 2015, or 25,000 students, will apply for the program when it begins.
Haslam says that the money is already there for the program in the reserves of lottery proceeds and will be taken from those reserves.
Watch Governor Haslam outline Tennessee’s future while making history here.