Gov. Bill Haslam announced today that a record number of high school seniors from the class of 2017 applied for the Tennessee Promise and called on Tennessee adults to serve as mentors for the program.
November 1 marked the deadline for the state’s groundbreaking program which provides high school graduates two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees, and 60,780 high school seniors applied. That’s up from 58,286 applicants in 2014 and 59,621 applicants in 2015.
Mentorship is a key aspect of the Tennessee Promise. The state’s goal is to secure 9,000 mentors before the deadline on November 20. Currently, 4,500 mentors have committed, and only two counties, Hawkins and Grundy, have met their goals.
“With this record number of applicants and a number of other indicators, it’s clear that Tennessee Promise is changing the conversation around going to college in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “But we don’t just want students to apply to college; we want them to succeed in college and graduate. Mentors play a huge role in the program’s success. We’re half way to our goal of 9,000 mentors with only a few weeks until the deadline, so I want to encourage Tennesseans to consider mentoring. The time commitment is small, but the impact can be life changing for students across our state and in your community.”
Launched in 2014, Tennessee Promise made Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer high school graduates two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees. As a result, first-time freshmen enrollment increased 25 percent at community colleges and 20 percent at technical colleges in 2015, and the college-going rate increased to a historic high of 62.5 percent.
Tennessee Promise mentors are required to be at least 21 years old and attend a one-hour training session and two, one-hour meetings with their students over the course of a year. On average, mentors spend about an hour a month working with three to seven students as they transition from high school to college, reminding them of important deadlines, encouraging them and serving as a trusted resource.
The mentor application is available through November 20 at http://tnpromise.gov/volunteers.shtml.
A video message from Gov. Haslam calling on Tennesseans to become mentors is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZF6q-OjzPg.
About the Drive to 55:
In 2013, Gov. Haslam launched the Drive to 55 to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. As a result, the Drive to 55 has established the Tennessee Promise program, the nation’s first scholarship and mentorship program that provides high school graduates last-dollar scholarships to attend two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees; reduced the number of college freshmen requiring remediation through the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program; provided free technical college for adults through TCAT Reconnect Grants; created Tennessee Reconnect + Complete to help more adults return to college to complete unfinished degrees; developed a more comprehensive state approach to serving student veterans; and leveraged technology to enhance classroom instruction and college advising.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.