Tennessee Promise students in Knox County will now have access to additional financial aid and mentoring through a new program, announced on Wednesday.
Knox Promise, a pilot program for Tennessee Promise-eligible students, aims to increase the number of Knox County college graduates by providing need-based grants, a textbook stipend, a coach to support students in their college career and a summer support program.
The needs-based grants can go toward paying for unexpected expenses, like if students need to pay for repairs to their car or pay for a course lab fee, Jim Haslam said.The Haslam Family Foundation invested $6.2 million into the program for the first five semesters, the majority of which will pay for the grants, Haslam said.
“I think, as we all realize, education is the key to everything, and so many young men and women have to drop out because of some financial difficulty,” Haslam said.
Knox Promise will be available for Tennessee Promise-eligible students from the 2019 and 2020 Knox County high school graduating classes. Students entering an associate degree program at a community college, technical college, college or university who maintain their Tennessee Promise eligibility will qualify for Knox Promise.
“We think it’s an exciting way to keep more of these young men and women in school so they can graduate and have productive lives,” Haslam said.
The program will start in Knox County and be studied throughout the first few years, with the potential to spread to other areas of the state.
“Knox Promise is a first-of-its-kind community-based initiative that provides additional financial and coaching support to help more Tennessee Promise students successfully navigate their way through college,” said Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves.
Knox Promise was created through a partnership between the Haslam Family Foundation, tnAchieves, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and several other institutions, including Pellissppi State Community College.
Program is ‘a real game changer’
“Knox Promise recognizes that some of our students need support beyond the tuition dollars that Tennessee Promise provides,” said Randy Boyd, interim president of the University of Tennessee and board chair of tnAchieves. “And we could not be more grateful to Jim Haslam and the Haslam family for making this pilot program possible.”
Boyd called the program “a real game-changer for many of our students and families here in Knox County,” and said he hopes the program will spread across the state in the future.
“For a lot of young people in our county, some of those small expenses can be total derailments,” Boyd said. “A lack of $100 to get a car fixed may result in them not being able to finish their college degree, so this money is going to make sure more young people in Knox County can not only go to college, but complete college.
Anthony Wise, president of Pellissippi State Community College, said the program will add “an additional layer of support” for Knox County students.
“Through this program, we are looking to eliminate the financial barriers that prevent Knox County’s Tennessee Promise students from completing a post-secondary degree,” Wise said.
UT Promise announced earlier this year
Earlier this year, the University of Tennessee announced a program similar to Tennessee Promise. UT Promise will allow Tennessee residents with a household income of less than $50,000 a year who qualify for the HOPE state lottery scholarship to attend any UT campus free of tuition and fees.
UT Promise: What students need to know to get free college
Students participating in UT Promise will be matched with volunteer mentors and will complete four hours of service learning each semester.