Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature proposal to create a program that would cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate, called the “Tennessee Promise,” is scheduled to be heard by a key legislative committee today.
It’s a vital part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” campaign to improve the state’s graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025 to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.
Haslam has proposed that his state use lottery funds to provide high school graduates with two free years of education at community or technical colleges.
It’s estimated that the plan would cost about $34 million each year.
“As we encourage more Tennesseans to continue their education, we know we have to remove as many barriers as possible,” Haslam said during his State of the State address in February. “Cost is often the biggest hurdle to furthering education.”
In 2012, Tennessee’s lottery sales reached a record high of $1.2 billion. In the state lottery’s short history, being launched in 2004, it has already raised more than $2.5 billion for educational programs.
“Even at a community college, it’s not cheap. You’ve got all that debt,” 22-year-old community college graduate Cody Mitchell said at a state legislative hearing this week covered by the Daily News Journal. “That money can go to a lot of other things.”