Haslam Free Tuition Plan to be Heard by Key Senate Panel

Apr 8, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam's signature proposal to create a program that would cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate is scheduled to be heard by a key Senate committee Tuesday.

Tennessee Promise is a cornerstone of Haslam's "Drive to 55" campaign to improve the state's graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025 to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.

However, higher education officials are concerned the program could play havoc with the state’s new outcomes based funding formula. Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan recently told senators the new students could push down graduation rates.

“Fundamentally I agree with the idea that the students who will be reached by Tennessee Promise that currently are not going to post-secondary education, are likely to be more underprepared or less prepared.”

Haslam wants to pay for the program by using $300 million in excess lottery reserve funds and join it with a $47 million endowment.