Already, more than 22,000 students have applied to have their community college tuition paid by Governor Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program. The goal was only to get 20,000 by the deadline of November 1st.
“This indicates to me that this program is resonating with parents and students,” says TN Promise executive director Mike Krause.
To stay competitive, four-year schools like MTSU and Austin Peay have sweetened their scholarship packages for freshmen. The same public universities are also offering automatic financial aid for those who transfer from a community college to finish a bachelors degree.
Four-year schools have been quietly displeased with the free community college plan, particularly since it lowers the lottery-funded scholarship for freshmen and sophomores. But University of Tennessee chancellor Joe DiPietro says he sees upside. At UT, he says there’s plenty of capacity in upper-level classes.
“I would love to have the problem in three or four or five years that we have so many people coming to one of the campuses to do an upper division finish-off of their curriculum that we’re having to say we can’t take them, or we have to revise the admissions process,” DiPietro says. “I mean, that’d be a good problem to have.”
DiPietro says he doesn’t necessarily feel like UT now will be in competition with community colleges. Instead, he says the school will be freer to focus more on graduate programs and research.