Tennessee Promise: Does It Help Students with Limited Financial Means Afford College?

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The Institute for Higher Education Policy


Tennessee is at the vanguard of the free-college movement. Launched in 2015, Tennessee Promise makes technical and community colleges tuition-free for recent high school graduates in the state. With the addition of Tennessee Reconnect in 2018, adult students can attend tuition-free as well. The efforts of the state’s leadership, especially its willingness to re-examine the program and expand it to support adult learners, is commendable. But program details matter. This analysis of Tennessee Promise and Reconnect examines the effects of the program’s design and recommends enhancements that will redirect program resources to help low-income students pay for college.



financial barriers, barriers to entry (postsecondary education), free college, low-income students, education, higher--government policy, Tennessee