Gov. Haslam delivers Commencement address at Southwest Tennessee Community College

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Southwest Tennessee Community College
Gov. Bill Haslam at Southwest Tennessee Community College

Gov. Bill Haslam wrapped up the 2017 Spring Commencement season for Tennessee's community colleges by addressing graduates at Southwest Tennessee Community College on Saturday.

It was the second consecutive Saturday that Gov. Haslam spent on the road addressing graduates and honoring the first class of Tennessee Promise students to graduate. He was also the main commencement speaker at Cleveland State Community College on May 6.

"My father was the first person in his family to go to college, and he only got to go because he got a scholarship. But because of college, his life was changed forever," the governor told the Southwest graduates. His father, James A. Haslam II, attended the University of Tennessee and after graduating, founded Pilot Corporation -- building a chain of travel centers across the United States and Canada from one gasoline station.

Gov. Haslam launched the Tennessee Promise program two years ago, providing up to five semesters of community college free of tuition and mandatory fees of any Tennessee high school graduate beginning with the Class of 2015. 

The governor also spoke about the expansion of his Tennessee Reconnect program, approved by the Tennessee General Assembly last week. TN Reconnect will also provide two years of tuition-free community or technical college for adult Tennesseans without a college degree, starting in Fall 2018.

He encouraged parents, friends and others in the audience for Saturday's to consider the new program.

Both TN Promise and TN Reconnect are part of the state's Drive to 55 initiative to boost the number of working age Tennesseans with some level of college degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025 -- up from the current 38 percent.