Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam made headlines earlier this week when he proposed an innovative way to provide the state’s students with a free two-year college education.
Called the “Tennessee Promise,” the plan, outlined in Haslam’s annual State of the State speech, would give all high schools students two years of college education free at a community college or a college of applied technology.
Those credits would then be allowed for transfer to a four-year institution.
“If we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs,” Haslam said in his speech.
To make the Tennessee Promise sustainable over time, the governor proposed transferring lottery reserve funds to create an endowment, with the goal of strategically redirecting existing resources.
He recommended leaving $110 million in the lottery reserve fund to ensure there is a healthy balance moving forward.
The Tennessee Promise is part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school. In 11 years, 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree to get a job, but today, only 32 percent of Tennesseans qualify.
“This is a bold promise,” Haslam continued. “It is a promise that will speak volumes to current and prospective employers. It is a promise that will make a real difference for generations of Tennesseans, and it is a promise that we have the ability to make. Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless.”
The initiative, which still must be passed by the state legislature, has garnered positive reviews.
State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville voiced her approval of the initiative.
“I think it’s very innovate. To know we’ll be the first state in the country to offer free college education,” Massey told WATE.com.