The Tennessee Promise, a key component of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55Initiative, passed the state legislature Tuesday, April 15, 2014. It will go into effect the 2015-16 academic year. The Promise provides last-dollar scholarships to ensure all graduating high school seniors have the opportunity to obtain a TCAT certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree free of tuition and fees. The scholarships bridge the funding gap for students after all other financial aid is applied. To be eligible for and maintain the Promise funding, matriculating students must complete the FAFSA, work with an assigned mentor, attend a college orientation upon acceptance, maintain satisfactory academic progress, and perform one day of community service each semester while attending a post secondary institution.
The estimated cost of the program is $34 million annually, which will be sustained by combining excess lottery reserve funds and a legislatively-created endowment. Additionally, the 2-year HOPE award will be increased from $2,000 to $3,000 to reduce the amount of gap funding needed. Students pursuing four-year degrees will now receive $3,500 in each of their first two years and $4,500 in each of their last two. Promise Scholarship funding will be distributed directly to postsecondary institutions on behalf of the students.
Any student who is interested in attending TCAT (Tennessee Applied College of Technology) needs to plan on signing up next year for the Tennessee Promise. The school is placing those students who have attended the Promise meetings ahead of those students who have not.