NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Sending your kids to college these days is not cheap.
But the state of Tennessee is offering free money for college. That's right. How does free college tuition sound? Under Governor Bill Haslam, Tennessee started a program for high seniors called Tennessee Promise. The program provides a free college education to any graduating senior in the state.
"This is a great program because we are the only state in the country that can offer free community and technical college to any of our citizens," Graham Thomas with Tennessee Promise explained.
The TN Promise program provides two years of free tuition to any of Tennessee's community colleges or colleges of applied technology, as well as a handful of four-year universities.
There are no income requirements or GPA requirements.
"The only requirement is that you are graduating from a Tennessee high school and that you have lived here at least a year," Thomas said.
That's it. Once you apply, you're in.
It's literally free money for college. Students are also paired with a volunteer mentor.
"We give them someone who is in their corner advocating for them, fighting for them, making sure they’re meeting their deadlines. And I’ve always said that it’s the most important role. And in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I would say it’s the most important role, being their cheerleader, just letting them know that hey you can do this," Thomas said.
The deadline to apply is just around the corner. It's next Monday, November 2. Applying is easy and takes just minutes. And while you might think this isn't for you, Thomas said it's always good to keep your options open.
"Even if you think I’m going to UT or I am going to go out of state, I am going to MTSU, TSU. Apply! It never hurts to have a back-up plan. And we all know that things happen between now and August," Thomas added.
Applications, right now, are way down. That's likely because many high schools are virtual right now and normally, it's high school counselors and teachers who help students apply in class.
But Thomas said don't let that stop you.
"Once we get an application on file from students, we get their phone numbers and we get their emails, they are going to get a mentor. So we’re going to start putting supports around them immediately and we know if we put those supports around them, we can, one, get them get them into college and, two, make sure they’re successful. But until they apply we don’t know who they are," Thomas explained.
Once students you are accepted, to keep the scholarship, students must meet with their mentor twice, once in the spring of their senior year and then again in the fall of their freshman year. Those meetings, due to the pandemic, will be online. Students must also keep a 2.0 GPA and do 8 hours of community service.