The executive director of Governor Bill Haslam's free-tuition program said it has contributed to the spike in students pursuing a higher education.
Tennessee Promise has offered eligible high school seniors free tuition to a two-year community or technical college.
According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, 50,699 first-time freshmen enrolled in a public higher education institution this year, compared with 46,030 last year.
Tennessee Promise Executive Director Mike Krause said Thursday that of the 21,706 students enrolled in community colleges, 16,291 are in the governor's program.
Krause said the numbers have been "reflective of a culture and attitude change in Tennessee about going to college."
Tennessee Promise has been a key component of Haslam's "Drive to 55" initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by the year 2025.