Tennessee STRONG Act Provides Educational Opportunities for Tennessee National Guard

Monday, April 10, 2017 | 06:59pm

First piece of Haslam’s NextTennessee legislative agenda unanimously approved by General Assembly, heads to governor’s desk

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today thanked the General Assembly for unanimously passing the Tennessee STRONG (Support, Training and Renewing Opportunity for National Guard) Act, the governor’s legislation that provides tuition free educational opportunities for eligible members of the Tennessee National Guard and supports the Drive to 55 goal to increase the number of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025.

The House of Representatives this afternoon passed HB 530/SB 1216 97-0 and it now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. The Senate passed the legislation 31-0 on April 3.

“I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Tennessee’s National Guard in action, both in Afghanistan and here in Tennessee helping communities recover from devastating tragedies. Through the Tennessee STRONG Act, we can help our soldiers and airmen who protect us at home and abroad by providing tuition free attendance for these men and women at our public universities and colleges,” Haslam said. “I thank Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Rep. Tilman Goins for carrying this bill and the legislature for their overwhelming support and partnership in helping our National Guardsmen earn college degrees.”

The Tennessee STRONG Act creates a four-year pilot program for members of the Tennessee National Guard. Eligible members will qualify for tuition reimbursement toward a first time bachelor’s degree. The bill is part of Haslam’s NextTennessee legislative plan aimed at building and sustaining economic growth and the state’s competitiveness for the next generation of Tennesseans.

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.