Tennessee to Approve Free Community College for All High School Grads

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has a signature proposal for this year. His program would cover a complete full ride at two year colleges for any student who graduates from high school. The plan is a cornerstone to his “Drive to 55” campaign, which is a campaign that will improve the graduation rate of students from the current 32 percent all the way up to a whopping 55 percent by the year 2025. This will help students get on the job field and hopefully attract more employers to Tennessee.

Although the proposal has not gone into effect yet, it does seem to be on tract to pass as lawmakers enter the waning days of the legislative session. Gov. Haslam plans to pay for the program, which would cost about $34 million annually, by using $300 million in excess lottery reserve funds and join it with a $47 million endowment. Lawmakers are wanting to make sure there is adequate funding for the proposal, and Haslam’s fellow republicans say they expect it to pass.

What’s wonderful about this entire proposal is that thousands of students who can not obtain scholarships or financial aid will have access to further education without the fear of being in debt. The point here is not to engorge the 4-year colleges with ill-prepared undergrads, it is instead to move our students who don’t have the ability to pay for college themselves a chance to better their lives. Yes, about half of the people who do this will take the four year prep courses in order to focus on their major in a University, but the other half can become nurses, welders, and other forms of skilled labor that need a 2-year degree to be profitable.  This will help lower the poverty rate by increasing skilled labor, all while using lottery money that’s just collecting dust.

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