‘Tennessee Promise’ proposes free tuition for all residents

By Kristine Bearss

On Feb. 3, Governor Bill Haslam of Nashville, Tenn. proposed his plan to a room full of delegates about his new idea for ensuring the success of his state. He called it “The Tennessee Promise,” and it consists of one simple objective: to provide a free two-year technical or community college education for all graduating high school students throughout his state.
“What’s the best jobs plan? Easy answer: education,” Haslam said.
Although, the tough question that follows is, how is something of this scale going to be paid for? Haslam proposed that the money come in the form of an endowment taken from the Tennessee Education Lottery — a government sponsored lottery-style scholarship program for Tennessee residents. He suggested taking a portion of the money and leaving $110 million dollars in the reserve.
Members of both the Democratic and Republican parties present for his proposal praised Haslam for his innovation and creative approach for providing education without seriously damaging the state budget.
State Senator Becky Duncan’s view of this plan sums up the overall attitude of the night: “I think it’s very innovate, to know we’ll be the first state in the country to offer free college education.” While other states help in some ways, the majority of the time, postsecondary institutions themselves provide the biggest relief to students from tuition fees.
However, for obvious reasons, these institutions also tend to have very stringent requirements.
US News & World Report’s Katy Hopkins created a list of the top 12 colleges with free tuition in the US in 2012. Of these 12 institutions, all of them provide free tuition themselves in return for something else.
Cooper Union of New York City offers merit-based free education — out of the 12 listed in the report, this and military service are the most common exchange for free education. However, the stipulations do range dramatically.
At the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, students can expect free tuition in exchange for 15 hours of work a week doing remedial tasks from janitorial work to dairy farming. But this is not the most unorthodox thing that students will do for a $0 bill at the end of their education career.
The report states that, “Students enrolled at California’s Deep Springs College don’t pay anything but must work on the school’s cattle ranch and alfalfa farm.”
Roosevelt University has its own support for students trying to gain financial assistance. Students can receive scholarship money for living on campus in the Wabash Building and through the Satisfactory Academic Progress program, a merit-based program to help students gain scholarship money.
Evidently, Haslam’s Tennessee Promise does not have stipulations like merit-based requirements, military service, or cattle ranching; simply graduate from high school and pick a two year technical or community college in state to prepare for a four-year institution.

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