Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean
On. Feb. 3, 2014, Gov. Bill Haslam announced his plan for the state to offer tuition-free community and technical college to Tennessee’s high school graduates.
It vaulted Tennessee into the national conversation on college access and triggered a frenzy of work that is unusual in higher education, where initiatives typically are developed over years, not months.
Much of that work will come to a head on Monday, the first day of school at the state’s 13 community colleges, when thousands of Tennessee Promise students will arrive on campus for the first time.
In the following timeline, The Tennessean takes a look at the work done in the more than 560 days since Haslam’s announcement, and the road to Day 1.
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Gov. Bill Haslam announces the Tennessee Promise program during a 40-minute State of the State address that was packed with plans to bring more Tennesseans into higher education.
“We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee,” Haslam said at the time. “Tennessee will be the only state in the country to offer our high school graduates two years of community college with no tuition or fees along with the support of dedicated mentors.”
Haslam signs Tennessee Promise into law days after it wins the support of an overwhelming majority of state lawmakers. The governor signs the landmark bill seven times at ceremonies across the state, starting in Cookeville, Tenn.
Officials initially expect 20,000 students to apply in the program’s first year.
Mike Krause’s first day as executive director of the program. In his first weeks on the job, Krause drives thousands of miles across the state encouraging high school students to apply for the program. In one week in July, he said, he visited with 61 school district leaders.
Community colleges across the state host “Scholarship Saturday” events on campus to help high school seniors enroll in the program. The line at Motlow State Community College’s campus in Lynchburg stretches out the library door 45 minutes before the event begins.
The state’s deadline to apply for Tennessee Promise. Seventeen staff members at the state-run Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation call center field 487 last-minute calls from students and parents with questions.
More than 58,000 of Tennessee’s high school seniors apply by the deadline.
Nashville State Community College hosts a breakfast seminar for adults who have volunteered to mentor Tennessee Promise students through their first semester. The state ultimately recruits more than 7,000 mentors.
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President Barack Obama visits Knoxville to announce a national plan for tuition-free community college that he said was inspired by Tennessee Promise.
“Tennessee is at the forefront of doing some really smart stuff,” Obama said during remarks at Pellissippi State Community College.
Dyersburg State Community College is one of many schools to hold a job fair to recruit additional adjunct faculty to teach a swell of Tennessee Promise students. Officials there expect the program could boost enrollment by as much as 15 percent
Nashville State is one of many community colleges that hold an event to help incoming students file for federal aid by the Tennessee Promise deadline.
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Northeast State Community College’s foundation approves funding to purchase iPads for all of its incoming Tennessee Promise students. The Northeast State Foundation made a one-time investment of about $340,000 for the pilot program. During the first year, the college will engage a national study to collect data on how the iPads impact student performance, retention and textbook costs.
Haslam meets with community college presidents to discuss preparations for the program. “Their primary concern right now, not knowing how many of those Tennessee Promise students will actually be realized, how do they budget for faculty?” he said at the time. “So it’s a little unknown territory.”
Tennessee Promise student Tahj Turnley of Brentwood begins his college career at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Hohenwald campus in Spring Hill. Officials say that 2,325 Tennessee Promise students are still eligible to use the scholarship at one of the state’s 27 technical colleges.
Financial aid representatives at Roane State Community College call 291 Tennessee Promise students who have incomplete financial aid files or admissions files, or who haven’t enrolled full-time.
Deadline for students to submit eight community service hours. About 22,500 meet the requirement, the last hurdle of eligibility before classes begin later in the month.
Math professor Leah Frauendienst completes her new employee orientation at Volunteer State Community College. She is one of four math professors and nine English professors hired in advance of the Tennessee Promise rollout. The school also hires four new “completion advisers” to ensure those students get a degree.
Officials start recruiting the next class of Tennessee Promise students.
Indiana officials travel to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Nashville to learn more about the program. Indiana is one of several states considering programs inspired by Tennessee Promise. Lawmakers in Oregon passed a similar bill earlier this year.
Vol State holds Pioneer Preview Day to welcome new students to campus. Tennessee Promise students get student ID cards and learn about academic support programs available there.
The first day of community college for most Tennessee Promise students.