Governor Haslam Proposes Two Free Years of Tuition

Reported by: Alisha Searl
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Updated: 2/04/2014 6:57 pm
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF) - A free education at a Tennessee community college or technology college ... how good does that sound?

Henley Schimph, a student at Chattanooga State Community College, says, "I was very shocked, but very excited. I think it's an incredible idea."

During Governor Bill Haslam's 4th State of the State Address, he introduced the Tennessee Promise.

It's a proposal that would give graduating high school seniors the option of going to a 2-year college, like Chattanooga State, free of tuition and fees.

That's a value of at least $5,000 per student.

Dondre Petty, a student at Chattanooga State, adds, "I think that would be a great thing for a lot of kids.  A lot of kids can't afford to go to four-year universities."

Governor Haslam wants to use funds from the state's lottery reserves to help fund the new initiative.

School leaders at Chattanooga State welcome the idea, and hope it will lead to higher graduation rates and more seniors enrolling in college classes.

Currently, their student body is only made up of about 30 to 35 percent of high school graduates.

Eva Lewis, with Chattanooga State, says, "It's very promising, no pun intended, but we are eager to see what the details are going to be and are certainly welcoming any support."

Just a few miles away at UTC, leaders there also support the initiative.

Chuck Cantrell, with UTC, adds, "Anything the gov can do to encourage a more educated work force can only benefit the whole state."

Governor Haslam also says students who graduate from a 2-year college could then go on to a 4-year as a junior.

So, essentially a 4-year degree would be cut in half.

The proposal still needs to go through the legislative process.

Governor Haslam would like this to be a done deal by the fall of next year.

The Tennessee Promise is part of Governor Haslam's Drive to 55 initiative.

He wants at least 55 percent of Tennesseans to receive some sort of higher education.

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