Tennessee Thinks Most Students Signing Up For Free Community College Won’t Actually Attend
Rebecca Hargrove, CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation, signs up to be a Tennessee Promise mentor. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

Tennessee Thinks Most Students Signing Up For Free Community College Won’t Actually Attend

Rebecca Hargrove, CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation, signs up to be a Tennessee Promise mentor. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN
Rebecca Hargrove, CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation, signs up to be a Tennessee Promise mentor. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

Almost three quarters of high school seniors in the state have applied for Tennessee Promise, the last-dollar scholarship that covers community college tuition, which has doubled the state’s expectations.

But Mike Krause, the program’s executive director, says the state isn’t worried about paying for Tennessee Promise because it doesn’t think most of those students will end up enrolling in community college.

The state is sticking by its original estimate that about 12,000 students would use Tennessee Promise to attend community college, Krause says. He says there’s definitely more buzz than anticipated, but he doesn’t think that will translate into significantly higher-than-expected enrollment.

“In many counties right now, I think we’re seeing students take advantage of the Tennessee Promise application who may ultimately go into a four-year school,” he says. “School counselors are making sure every student takes advantage of it.”

Some high school seniors who are filling out the application may also decide not to go to college at all next year, or they may fail to complete the program’s other requirements — for example, students have to file federal financial aid forms, volunteer for eight hours and attend two meetings with a mentor.

The projected cost to the state’s lottery reserves next year remains around $9 million, Krause says.


Tennessee Promise By The Numbers

  • 46,000 high school seniors have filled out the application for Tennessee Promise, as of Monday
  • 62,000 total high school seniors in Tennessee
  • 20,000-25,000 students were originally expected to sign up for Tennessee Promise
  • 12,000 students were originally expected to enroll in community college using Tennessee Promise — that number is not expected to change significantly, even with the increase in signups

Emily Siner

Emily Siner is an enterprise reporter at WPLN. She has worked at the Los Angeles Times and NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., and her written work was recently published in Slices Of Life, an anthology of literary feature writing. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On Twitter: @SinerSays
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