Making Promises in Tennessee

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Starting this fall semester the Tennessee Promise will officially kick into gear. For those of you unawares of the new Tennessee student aid system, it is a system fostered by Governor Bill Haslem guaranteeing all 2015 Tennessee High School graduates two tuition free years of community college. The system is an effort to increase the knowledge of the Tennessee labor force and attract higher wage jobs to the state. A move that has been praised so highly that President Obama is now championing a similar nationwide policy for, in his words, “Those who are willing to work for it.”

The Tennessee Promise will be used as what is called a “last-dollar scholarship”, in that it will cover tuition and fees that the Pell grant, Hope Scholarship, or TSAA funds do not. Students can apply to any of the 13 community colleges, or one of the 27 colleges of applied technology in the state. There are stipulations to the deal, one of which is the required mentoring system. Each student utilizing the benefits of the Tennessee Promise will receive a mentor to assist them through the college admissions process. The mentors are supposed to come from local non-profit organizations; in Chattanooga States case (along with most of the state) it will be TN Achieves that runs the mentor program. They accepted willing applicants up to November 1st of last year that have undergone mentor training in preparation to aid prospective students.

Students of the new aid initiative will also be required to participate in community service and to maintain an acceptable GPA. Students must complete 8 hours of community service per term enrolled to ensure they give back to the community that gave to them. In addition, students will be required to maintain a 2.0GPA. A 2.0 GPA is roughly a 73 – 76 percent number grade, or a C letter wise, which is an entire letter grade below the requirements of the Hope and Pell Grant scholarships. A lowered expectation that should figure to attract more prospective students this fall, enrollment numbers are expected to skyrocket in all programs.

Expect this to affect the Chattanooga State campus in several different ways. Classes will fill faster, and no doubt more classes will have to be added to handle the additional load. More classes means more teachers and jobs around campus. The chief concern around campus is the sheer volume of the student body. Anyone on campus during the day knows how hard it is to get a parking spot around campus. Expect the smaller campuses to also be bursting at the seams with new faces. Space is a very real concern that may be difficult for Chattanooga State to address on the heels of the resignation of former Chattanooga State President Dr. Catanzaro.