TN governor proposes free tuition for all students - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TN governor proposes free tuition for all students

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Paying for college is a struggle for most people. Now Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is proposing a new education plan to make it easier.

He announced the program called Tennessee Promise during his State of the State address Monday. It would pay for all Tennessee high school grads, to attend to two-year community college or applied technology centers. He says by making the state more educated, it will improve our economy. If his plan becomes a reality, Tennessee would be the first state in the country with this type of program.

"We will promise that he or she can attend two years of community college or college of applied technology absolutely free," Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said.

A standing ovation met Governor Haslam's proposal during his state of the state address Monday night.

"I think we were all pretty surprised. We didn't anticipate this coming," Chattanooga State Community College Associate Vice President Eva Lewis said.

Chattanooga State Community College officials are excited, and curious to hear more details. Around 85-percent of their students require some sort of financial aid.

"I think sometimes they don't want to come to college because even if they get some of those other subsidies, they still can't afford the difference," Lewis said.

Tennessee Promise is expected to cost around $34 million each year and would come from an endowment made up of lottery reserve funds.

"At least realistic, now the question is how does the math work and how has the governor calculated it out," TN Senator Bo Watson said.

While it's something Sen. Watson says is at least initially gaining support from state Republicans and Democrats, Soddy-Daisy High School Counselor Kelly Jeno has some concerns.

"If something is given to them and they don't have to work toward it, they don't work quite as hard," Soddy-Daisy High School Counselor Kelly Jeno said.

She fears it will lower standards among students.

"It's taking away from students going to four year colleges and I think that can be very discouraging and very detrimental to those students," Jeno said.

Governor Haslam doesn't see it that way, saying the door is open for students to transfer to universities as juniors.

"By getting their first two years free, the cost of a four-year degree is cut in half," Gov. Haslam said.

The president of Chattanooga State says the community college is ready to accommodate a rise in enrollment. He was in Nashville Tuesday in support of the proposal and in hopes of learning more about it.

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