It’s back-to-school time in Tennessee, and this fall our high school seniors have an opportunity to change the future – for themselves, their families and for our state.
Earlier this year, working with the General Assembly, we passed the Tennessee Promise, a new scholarship program that provides two years of community or technical college to graduating high school seniors absolutely free of tuition and fees.
The class of 2015 will be the first to take advantage of this program. Starting this month through Nov. 1, we are encouraging high school seniors to go online at tnpromise.gov to sign up.
For many families, cost has been one of the biggest hurdles to higher education. Tennessee is the first and only state in the country to offer our high school graduates two years of community or technical college tuition-free along with the support of dedicated volunteers and mentors to help make sure the students succeed.
The Tennessee Promise makes a strong statement to our students and their families that education beyond high school is a priority for our state. It has to be. In the next decade, 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree beyond high school to get a job, but today, only 32 percent of Tennesseans qualify. While we know that college isn’t for everyone, it has to be a reality for more Tennesseans than it is today.
Through the Tennessee Promise, we hope to boost our current college-going rate by more than 15 percent in the next five years – putting us at the top among the states we compete with most for the jobs of the future.
The General Assembly can pass legislation, I can sign it into law, and we can fund it, but unless high school seniors sign up, it means nothing.
It is going to take all of us working together to make sure high school seniors take advantage of the Tennessee Promise and to match them with a local mentor to help them succeed. We need every county and community, every business and organization, to get involved by spreading the word about the Tennessee Promise and by serving among the thousands of new volunteer mentors we need to support these students and our state.
As we launch this initiative, we are making a bold promise. It is a promise to today’s kindergartners all the way through to our high school seniors. You now have the opportunity to attend two years of community or technical college completely tuition-free when you graduate from high school.
If you’re a high school senior, know a high school senior, or would consider volunteering as a mentor, please visit tnpromise.gov to learn more and to sign up today. This is your Tennessee Promise.
Tennesseans have heard me say over and over again, the Tennessee Promise is an education plan, but it’s also a jobs plan. And we’ve had some other exciting news on the jobs front over the past month. Academy Sports + Outdoors officials announced earlier this month that they will build a new 1.6 million-square-foot distribution center on 200 acres in Cookeville, investing $100 million and creating approximately 700 new jobs in Putnam County over the next five years.
Also this month, SL Tennessee, a South Korean automotive parts manufacturer, announced it will construct a new 250,000 square foot building to join its two existing facilities in the Clinton/I-75 Industrial Park. It’s an $80.5 million investment that will create 1,000 new jobs in Anderson County.
And finally, last Friday Crissy and I accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from Carianne and Chris Meystrik, a family we go to church with in Knoxville. Carianne has had ALS for 17 years.
As always, we welcome your feedback on the Tennessee Promise or any other topics on your mind. You can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Bill Haslam is governor of Tennessee.