Community And Technical Colleges Could Be Free For HS Students
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Community and technical colleges have always been a more cost effective way to get a higher education. Now Governor Haslam wants to make them free for high school graduates.
"I meet so many students who really, really strongly want to go to college," college mentor Ellen Houston said, "and there's a big information gap."
In Ellen Houston's workroom at Glencliff High School, plans of going to college become a reality.
"I even have her number," senior Androw Iberahim explained. Houston notifies him of opportunities and ensures that he meets key deadlines in the college application process.
For students like Iberahim, the cost of a higher education can be a barrier.
"You don't need to say no to free money," Iberahim said.
For him, the free money came in the form of a new program to Metro Schools called Tennessee Achieves. The program pays the tuition at a community college for recent high school graduates in exchange for eight hours of community service each semester.
"If we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans we have to make sure Tennesseans are ready for jobs," Governor Haslam said.
Monday he announced his desire to give the same opportunity to high school seniors across Tennessee during the State of the State address. Dubbed "Promise Tennessee," Governor Haslam's plan would also pay the tuition at community or technical colleges.
"I think that education and especially higher education is really a key part of ending the cycle of poverty," Houston said.
Each student would be paired with a mentor like Ellen Houston who in addition to her job as a college counselor has specifically committed to helping Androw get his Associates degree.
Androw says the support makes all the difference.
"Without Miss Ellen," he said, "no I couldn't handle all of this."
To pay for it Governor Haslam changes would be made to how much is being awarded for the HOPE Scholarship. The award for community colleges would go from $2,000 to $3,000 a year. Meanwhile students applying the money to a four year college, the awards would decrease from $4,000 to $3,000 the during first two years, then increase to $5,000 the last two years.
Governor Haslam plans to use the lottery reserves to pay for the program that's estimated to cost $34 million a year.
Students in the Academy of Energy and Power at Maplewood are busy getting ready for next week's Project Expo and had the opportunity to show it off some of their projects to Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper.