Tenn. Gov. Haslam proposes free community college for all adults

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   Jan. 31, 2017 at 11:51 AM
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Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed expanding a current program to allow all adults to receive tuition-free community college education.

The proposal is called the Tennessee Reconnect Act and it is designed to help the state reach the Drive to 55 goal of increasing the number of people in Tennessee who have a post-secondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025.

Tennessee needs 871,000 people to receive degrees to meet the goal but only 645,000 high school students are expected to graduate between 2014 and 2022. There are more than 900,000 people in Tennessee who have earned some college credit but do not have a degree.

"With this extension of the Drive to 55, which comes at no additional cost to taxpayers, every Tennessean will have the opportunity to enter or re-enter public higher education with no tuition expenses," Tennessee's government said in a statement.

To be eligible for the program, students must not already have an associate's or bachelor's degree, must have been a Tennessee resident for at least one year prior to applying to the program and must be considered an independent student.

Students must also be admitted to eligible institutions, which are any of Tennessee's 13 public community colleges, and must enroll in a degree or certificate program for at least six semester hours beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

To maintain the grant, students must continue enrollment in classes that lead to an associate's degree or certificate and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

The program, which expands a similar one for recent high school graduates, will be paid for through by state's lottery system.

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