Tennessee Promise enrollment rose in pandemic, but community college rates now dropping

Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 17:22:42-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — While Tennessee Promise students had the biggest cohort in 2022, enrollment across the state at community colleges dropped two years later.

The Tennessee Comptroller's Office found in a recent analysis that more than 19,000 students entered the free community college program in the fall of 2020. But the Tennessee Board of Regents announced this spring at its quarterly meeting that enrollment dropped 16% since 2019. Overall, its the lowest enrollment rate since 2001.

Comptroller's officials said their analysis determined the potential reason for the 2020 uptick was students attended a mandatory mentor meeting online and the waiver of the community service requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have allowed more students to remain eligible for the program.

Gov. Bill Haslam's administration lifted the free tuition program off the ground in 2015 with his "Drive to 55" initiative. The idea was for at least 55% of Tennesseans to have post-secondary credentials by 2025.

While the office found the program was on target to meet the goal in three years, the current attainment rate is still less than 50%.