The application for next year’s class of Tennessee Promise students opens today, and around the state, schools are gearing up to promote the free community college program to their high school seniors for a second time. In Nashville, schools have learned that students are eager to sign up but less so to follow through.
Davidson County schools saw high numbers of applicants last fall, but to stay eligible, they had to complete several requirements: two mandatory meetings, a financial aid form and eight hours of community service. With each requirement, Davidson County lost a higher percentage of students than most other counties in the state.
At Antioch High School, teachers carted in laptops and set aside class time last fall so that students could sign up for Tennessee Promise. After that, they were on their own to complete the requirements, says college and career counselor Candace Ogilvie. That came back to bite some students this summer.
“We’ve seen about a handful of students who’ve actually come in, asking for transcripts to be sent to Nashville State, Vol State, different community colleges," she says. "Something might have happened where they weren’t able to attend a four-year institution, and they did not do everything they needed to do to receive that [Tennessee Promise] award.”
This upcoming year, this school is revising its strategy, Ogilvie says: It will check in with students throughout the year to make sure they’re completing the program requirements, even if they only see community college as a backup plan.
The first Tennessee Promise class will start community college — tuition-free —later this month.
Tennessee Promise By The Numbers
- 58,286 high school seniors applied statewide
- 43,105 attended their first mandatory meeting
- 38,165 completed their financial aid form
- 31,985 attended their second mandatory meeting
- 22,534 completed eight hours of community service — and are still eligible to attend community college tuition-free later this month