Tennessee GOP Support For Obama’s Free Community College Plan Is Lukewarm So Far

Tennessee GOP Support For Obama’s Free Community College Plan Is Lukewarm So Far
President Obama speaks at Pellissippi State Community College to introduce "America's College Promise," a free community college program. Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

As President Obama announced his free community college plan in Knoxville today, he was joined by top Republican lawmakers. But this doesn’t necessarily mean Obama’s proposal is getting bipartisan support.

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Obama To Propose A Free Community College Plan Similar To Tennessee Promise

Obama To Propose A Free Community College Plan Similar To Tennessee Promise
President Obama addresses a small group at Casa Azafran in South Nashville. Credit: Bobby Allyn/WPLN

In President Obama’s third visit to Tennessee in the past year, he will be announcing a proposal that would make community college free for all Americans. "We also have make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits," he said in a video Thursday night.

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Is There A Way To Predict How Many Tennessee Promise Students Will Graduate?

Is There A Way To Predict How Many Tennessee Promise Students Will Graduate?
It's hard to find a graduation rate that predicts the situation Tennessee Promise students will have — partly because the program will likely attract students who wouldn't normally attend college. Screenshot of tennesseepromise.gov

In just a few weeks, students who applied for free community college — and almost every high school senior in the state did — will have their first mandatory Tennessee Promise meeting.

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Vol State Isn’t Sweating Over The Extra Interest From Tennessee Promise Applicants

Vol State Isn’t Sweating Over The Extra Interest From Tennessee Promise Applicants
A Volunteer State staff member helps Madison Cone, middle, complete the Tennessee Promise application, along with the community college's application for admission. Her mom came with her. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

If every student who applied for Tennessee’s free community college program actually went to community college, some schools, including Volunteer State Community College, would nearly double their full-time enrollment. But it's holding judgment about enrollment increases until the next step of the application process.

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Tennessee Promise’s Biggest Accomplishment: Adding ‘Free’ To College Conversation

Tennessee Promise’s Biggest Accomplishment: Adding ‘Free’ To College Conversation
A Volunteer State staff member helps Madison Cone, middle, complete the Tennessee Promise application, along with the community college's application for admission. Her mom came with her. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

The governor’s Tennessee Promise program guarantees that students can go to community college for free. And calling it free is more than a monetary statement: It’s also wildly effective marketing.

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Half Of Tennessee Promise Students Were Already Eligible For Federal College Funding

Half Of Tennessee Promise Students Were Already Eligible For Federal College Funding
Garnering federal financial aid, using a form known as the FAFSA, can be a confusing process for students, state officials say. Tennessee Promise requires that students fill out the FAFSA before getting the state's last-dollar scholarship. Credit: Bent Tree via Flickr

Many students attending community college under Tennessee Promise next fall will get their tuition paid by the federal government — meaning they could go to school tuition-free even without the state program.

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

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

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.

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State-Trained Mentors Try To Make The Road To Free Community College Less Confusing

State-Trained Mentors Try To Make The Road To Free Community College Less Confusing
Ritchie Francisco, a freshman at Volunteer State, signs a poster that says he's committed to finishing college. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

More than 40,000 high school seniors have signed up for Tennessee Promise, the new state scholarship that sends students to community college for free. But they still have a lot to do before their first day of class, and sometimes even the smallest hiccup can derail would-be college students.

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What The State’s Largest Public College System Expects From Tennessee Promise

What The State’s Largest Public College System Expects From Tennessee Promise
Gov. Bill Haslam gives out pens to Overton High School students after the final ceremonially signing of the bill. Credit: Micah Bradley / WPLN

The Tennessee Board of Regents may see 5,000 to 6,000 new students next year -- meaning students who otherwise wouldn't attend a TBR school -- as a result of Tennessee Promise. Four-year schools will be competing within the system for freshmen who could go to a community college for free.

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MTSU Enrollment Decline Causes Funding Cuts, Worries About Tennessee Promise

MTSU Enrollment Decline Causes Funding Cuts, Worries About Tennessee Promise
MTSU will be encouraging students to choose a major or focus area before they step foot on campus, although the school isn't eliminating the "undeclared" option yet. Credit: Emily R. West / WPLN

MTSU's decline in enrollment has professors worrying this is foresight into the future, and it has administrators cutting millions from the academic budget.

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Haslam: Free Community College Has 4-Year Universities Trying Harder

Haslam: Free Community College Has 4-Year Universities Trying Harder
Governor Bill Haslam was a panelist at a New York Times conference on 21st Century Community College. Credit: NYT via YouTube

The prospect of free community college in Tennessee has increased competition with universities, who have ramped up recruiting preemptively. Governor Bill Haslam relayed several candid conversations with college presidents at an event in New York this week.

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MTSU Lowers ACT Scores Needed For Scholarships In Response To Tennessee Promise

MTSU Lowers ACT Scores Needed For Scholarships In Response To Tennessee Promise
MTSU Graduation. Cap and Gown. Not exactly a hard hat, but we couldn't resist including it. Image: TN Photo Services

Middle Tennessee State University is expecting to give out 250 more merit scholarships next year because it is lowering the ACT scores needed to qualify. It's making this move as the state is putting less funding toward freshman and sophomores at four-year schools.

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Governor Finishes Promotional Tour Of ‘Tennessee Promise’ Bill Signings

Governor Finishes Promotional Tour Of ‘Tennessee Promise’ Bill Signings
Gov. Bill Haslam gives out pens to Overton High School students after the final ceremonially signing of the bill. Credit: Micah Bradley / WPLN

Gov. Bill Haslam signed this bill into law today — for the seventh time. He's been holding ceremonies around the state to talk about the push for more college graduates. The legislation will let any Tennessee resident attend community college for free.

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To Sell Free Community College Plan, Tennessee Governor Meets Universities In The Middle

To Sell Free Community College Plan, Tennessee Governor Meets Universities In The Middle
Every lawmaker in the chamber stood and applauded as Gov. Bill Haslam described his plan to pay community college tuition for anyone who needs it during his State of the State address in February. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

Governor Bill Haslam is starting to compromise on his administration’s proposal to pay the full tuition for anyone going to community college.

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Does The Math Work On Haslam’s Free Community College Plan?

Does The Math Work On Haslam’s Free Community College Plan?
Treasurer David Lillard (left) oversees much of the state's cash, including the more than $400 million lottery reserve fund which would be used under Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to pay for community college. Credit: TN Photo Services

One of the outstanding questions on Governor Bill Haslam’s plan to offer free community college is whether the financing will really work. That’s even a question to the state’s top money-man, Treasurer David Lillard.

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