THEC Awards Nearly $800,000 in Tennessee Promise Forward Grants to Community Colleges

Monday, August 15, 2016 | 12:19pm

News Release

News Release Contact:
Courtney Souter

NASHVILLE August 15 – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has awarded nearly $800,000 in Tennessee Promise Forward grants to five community colleges to focus on student success and retention. Through the grants, community colleges will develop and expand academic and advising programs to enable more Tennesseans to complete a post-secondary credential through the Tennessee Promise scholarship. 

"Since its launch in 2015, the focus of Tennessee Promise has been increasing the number of students enrolling in college," said Mike Krause, Executive Director of THEC. “Tennessee Promise Forward grants represent the next step: ensuring that once students get into college, they have the resources and tools to graduate. We saw impressive results with the first round of the grant; we look forward to seeing even more this year."

The Tennessee Promise Forward grant program began in 2015 with the goal of retaining Tennessee Promise students at community colleges. The program was initially funded through a College Access Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education and received a non-recurring allocation in the 2016-17 State budget due to promising results from its first year.

Results from the 2015-16 grants demonstrated encouraging results. Cleveland State Community College, an institution that received Tennessee Promise Forward funding in the first year, retained Tennessee Promise students at a rate that was 9 percentage points higher than the overall population through their case management approach to student advising. Their work with first-year seminars for incoming students yielded an increase from 31% to 60% of students completing college level writing.

The Tennessee Promise Forward grant has awarded grants to community colleges this year; grant amounts range between $144,000 and $160,000 based on the amount requested by the institution. Participating community colleges anticipate serving nearly all Tennessee Promise students at their respective institutions during the 2016-17 academic year. Institutions were chosen through a competitive application process and the funded programs include four previously funded institutions and one institution that received Tennessee Promise Forward funding for the first time. The Tennessee Promise Forward grants are administered by THEC.

Summary of Funded Programs

Cleveland State Community College | Award amount: $145,154
Cleveland State will continue the work from the campus’s prior Tennessee Promise Forward grant, increasing the touchpoints that the Tennessee Promise coordinator and college success coach will have with students as they approach major milestones of their first year in college. The college will also have peer instructors provide supplemental academic support sessions in classes with low completion levels for Tennessee Promise students, including accounting and biology. Cleveland State also plans to centralize its tutoring services in one location with the hopes of expanding access to tutoring for all students on campus.

Columbia State Community College | Award amount: $159,906
Columbia State received Tennessee Promise Forward funding in 2015-16, and plans to use the new funds to continue its focus on establishing clear pathways to degree completion for each student. The school uses a degree planning platform that allows students to map out each semester of college, ensuring that all requirements and pre-requisites are met to complete the desired degree. In the first year of Tennessee Promise Forward funding, Columbia State had 100% of Tennessee Promise students on a unique academic plan that included meeting with an advisor. In 2016-17, Columbia State will implement a peer coaching model in collaboration with tnAchieves and the Ayers Foundation that will mentor students in the college’s service area with historically low college-going rates. 

Jackson State Community College | Award amount: $159,496
Jackson State will implement the Tennessee Promise Forward grant with interventions that involve mentorship, community building, and college planning. The college will begin the year implementing a communication plan to increase outreach and touchpoints with students throughout their college transition, spanning from course registration to degree completion. Their robust advising services will help each student create an academic pathway, and each student will also be assigned a Jackson State employee mentor who will focus on connecting students to resources on campus. The program will also hire a Tennessee Promise Forward completion specialist who will track student persistence and communicate with academic advisors and employee mentors about students’ enrollment status.

Northeast State Community College | Award amount: $159,999
Northeast State plans to expand its successful peer mentoring program, which led to 84.2% retention of all Tennessee Promise students, an increase from the previous year’s retention rate of 78%. Mentors will use interactive technology including personalized text messages and push notifications to alert students of academic and financial aid deadlines. Northeast State will also continue its required freshman success course this academic year with an added layer of mentor support for all incoming Tennessee Promise students.

Pellissippi State Community College | Award amount: $144,460
Pellissippi State will expand its prior Tennessee Promise Forward programming with continued use of an intrusive advising model and two-way text messaging platform. In the intrusive advising model, advisors are in continual communication with students and respond proactively when students are deemed at-risk. Their communication efforts will be enhanced by a texting platform that allows advisors to reach out to students regarding key milestones and allows students to reply to any text message and interact with an advisor. During Pellissippi State’s 2015-16 Tennessee Promise Forward grant, the college saw over 50% engagement with their text messaging platform and 91% of students who had three advisor contacts or more were retained from fall to spring semester.


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. There are nine public universities, two special purpose institutes, 13 community colleges, and 27 colleges of applied technology in Tennessee that educate nearly 250,000 students annually.