FOCUS Act Puts Tennessee on Best Path for Reaching Drive to 55

Monday, April 04, 2016 | 05:44pm

FOCUS Act Passes General Assembly, Heads to Governor’s Desk

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today praised passage of the Focus On College and University Success (FOCUS) Act, legislation that organizes and empowers Tennessee’s public colleges and universities to increase student success and the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential.

Tonight the Senate passed the FOCUS Act 31-1, and with the bill having passed the House in March, the legislation is now on its way to the governor’s desk.

“We appreciate the General Assembly’s incredible support and partnership on the FOCUS Act, particularly Senator Mark Norris and Representative Ryan Williams for carrying the legislation, and we’re excited to move forward with the implementation process,” Haslam said. “Tennessee is making dramatic progress in higher education through the Drive to 55, and FOCUS is a crucial next step in this effort.”

The FOCUS Act, SB2569/HB2578, provides more focused support by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) for Tennessee’s 13 community and 27 technical colleges; creates local boards for the six public universities currently within TBR (Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and the University of Memphis); and strengthens the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

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.