Republican Gov. Bill Haslam visited Columbia State Community College to welcome back students participating in his Tennessee Promise program that offers free tuition at the state's two-year colleges.
Haslam's visit Tuesday to the school's Williamson County campus in Franklin followed the news that Tennessee for a second year in a row has led the nation in the rate of Free Application for Federal Student Aid filings, which is one of the prerequisites for the free tuition program.
Tuesday was the first day of class for students at Columbia State, and thanks to the Promise program many students didn't have to pay for it.
"If the Tennessee Promise wasn't offered to me I wouldn't be going to college," said freshman, Mitchell Carson. "I'd have to take out student loans and I wouldn't be going here obviously."
The Tennessee Promise Program has sent many qualified Tennessee students like Carson to a two year or tech college for free.
Haslam said the FAFSA form completion shows an improvement in the college-going culture in Tennessee.
"It really shows that all Tennesseans are getting this idea that all college can be for everybody and if it's free, no matter what your family background is, you now have an opportunity to go to school," Gov Bill Haslam said.
The Tennessee Promise program is part of Haslam's Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to grow the state's graduation rate to 55 percent by the year 2025.