Tennessee Promise Sees Increased Enrollment, Strong Retention Rates in Year 2

Thursday, February 02, 2017 | 4:15pm

NASHVILLE, TN – February 2 – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) announced today that the number of Tennessee Promise students who enrolled in college for the first time grew in the program’s second year while the majority of the scholarship’s first class of students re-enrolled for a second year of college. The Tennessee Promise scholarship was the first in the nation to offer graduating high school seniors two years tuition-free at a community or technical college.

“Education beyond high school is critical to the Tennessee we can be, and while it’s still early in the Tennessee Promise story, the results so far are incredibly encouraging,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “Since the program started, more than 33,000 students have enrolled in college as a result of Tennessee Promise, and of the students who began in fall 2015, 63 percent are still enrolled. Those students have performed a million hours of community service across our state and been mentored by 9,000 adult volunteers. We’ve led the nation in FAFSA filings the past two years, and at a time when the rest of the nation is wondering what to do about student loans, Tennessee has seen a 17 percent decrease in the number of students taking out loans.”

A total of 33,081 students have taken advantage of Tennessee Promise since students began enrolling in 2015. In Fall 2016, the second cohort included 16,790 students who enrolled through the scholarship program, an increase of almost 500 students from the prior class. Among students in the first Tennessee Promise class, who began in Fall 2015, 10,236 students, or about 63 percent of the cohort, re-enrolled in college for a second year.

The growth in enrollment for the second cohort and the retention rate for the first cohort indicate that not only is Tennessee Promise increasing first-time student enrollment in the state, but that those students are staying enrolled at strong rates. Among Tennessee Promise students at Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs), 83 percent returned for a second year. At community colleges, 58 percent of Tennessee Promise students re-enrolled, compared to 42 percent of non-Tennessee Promise students.

“The successes that we have seen with Tennessee Promise have inspired a number of other states to develop Promise-type scholarships, and these numbers are encouraging for both Tennessee and other states,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “The growth in enrollment and the retention numbers are short-term indicators of long-term success for the Drive to 55.”

Since the implementation of the scholarship in 2014, first-time freshman enrollment in public higher education has increased by 13 percent in Tennessee. The growth reflects a 32 percent increase in first-time freshman enrollment at TCATs and 30 percent increase at the state’s community colleges. The total cost of the scholarship, which is funded by the state’s lottery, is $25.3 million for 2016-17, with an average award of $1,090 per student.

This week, Haslam announced Tennessee Reconnect, a last-dollar scholarship for adults to attend a community college tuition-free. If approved, Tennessee would become the first state in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school students and adults – the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees and at no cost to taxpayers.

Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect are both part of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to reach a goal of 55 percent of Tennesseans with a degree or credential by 2025.

Tennessee Promise Year 2 Numbers

Media contact:  Kate Derrick, kate.derrick@tn.gov, 615-532-0428

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About the Tennessee Higher Education Commission
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission was created in 1967 by the Tennessee General Assembly.  The Commission develops, implements, and evaluates postsecondary education policies and programs in Tennessee while coordinating the state’s systems of higher education, and is relentlessly focused on increasing the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential.

About the Drive to 55
In 2013, Governor Haslam launched the Drive to 55 to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. As a result, the Drive to 55 has established the Tennessee Promise program, the nation’s first scholarship and mentorship program that provides high school graduates last-dollar scholarships to attend two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees; reduced the number of college freshmen requiring remediation through the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program; provided free technical college for adults through TCAT Reconnect Grants; created Tennessee Reconnect + Complete to help more adults return to college to complete unfinished degrees; developed a more comprehensive state approach to serving student veterans; and leveraged technology to enhance classroom instruction and college advising.