Details emerge about Haslam’s free 2-year college plan

Details emerge about Haslam's free 2-year college plan (Image 1)

Tens of thousands of Tennessee students are starting to look at a new plan that would give them free tuition at the state's two-year community and technical colleges beginning in 2015.

The plan, called The Tennessee Promise, was outlined Monday night by Governor Bill Haslam in his annual State of the State address to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Most observers say the initiative was the highlight of Mr. Haslam's address, drawing praise from Republicans, Democrats, and state education officials.

Several students at Nashville's Glencliff High School told News 2 it might change how they look at what they do after high school, but many of the seniors had not learned yet they would not be eligible.

A spokesperson for the governor's office Tuesday afternoon said the Tennessee Promise of free tuition would begin in 2015 for incoming freshman.

Sophomores at the two year schools in 2015 would not be able to participate for one year in the plan according to spokesperson Dave Smith, but he indicated they would still be eligible for a variety of other state aid or scholarship programs.

The state estimates that 25,000 students, or about 40% of graduates each year, will apply when the program launches with the graduating class of 2015.

The Web site estimates the cost of the program will be around $34 million annually.

Paying for it would come from transferring $300 million from reserves of the Tennessee Lottery to create an endowment.

Another provision of the Tennessee Promise would lower the lottery's Hope Scholarship from $4,000 annually to $3,000 for freshman and sophomores, but increase it from $4,000 to $5,000 for juniors and senior.

Glencliff High School guidance counselor Paul Leddy called the lottery change an “incentive” to get students to graduate from college.

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