The first year of the Tennessee Promise was a success, but not without challenges. State officials are addressing those issues as the program offering free community college education begins its second year.
More than 16,000 students were enrolled in the program last fall and 80% stayed with the program through the spring semester. The number of students who applied for Tennessee Promise scholarships for the 2016-17 school year increased to nearly 60,000, according to a report in The Tennessean.
The most significant change will deal with how federal aid is distributed to students. Filing rules for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have been relaxed by the corporation responsible for overseeing the financial parts of the Tennessee Promise. In addition, new federal guidelines allowing students to use more accessible tax data to complete the form go into effect in the fall.
“This is going to change things dramatically for this program, in a good way,” said Mike Krause, executive director of Tennessee Promise. “FAFSA and the FAFSA verification process represent a hurdle for students, particularly low-income students.”
Communications are being ramped up to provide more information and support for students in the program. Officials also plan to introduce the Tennessee Promise to eighth-graders across the state. In addition, colleges are hiring more support staff for students in the program and some professors are using a more team-project-style approach to their classes to encourage greater participation from the Tennessee Promise students.