SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam wants 55 percent of people living in the state to have a college degree or certificate within the next 10 years. One resource helping to do that is the Tennessee Promise program.
Students like Gloria Bridges are headed back to school for the fall semester. Many of the students here at Northeast State Community College are here with the help of the Tennessee Promise.
"Last year, we had three kids in college in my family at the same time," Bridges said.
Bridges is now in her second year of nursing classes and hopes to work in pediatric oncology. She tells us she has been able to focus on studies, not spending.
"What really appealed to me is the small classroom size," she said. "It really allowed me to interact more with my professors and fellow students and get that more one-on-one instructor."
Tennessee Promise is a two-year scholarship at community colleges and technical schools for students who graduate from Tennessee high schools.
"Assistance programs like that are game changers for these students," Josh Johnson said. Johnson is a coordinator for county and state scholarships at the college. He tells us there are currently 1,500 students enrolled in the program, but only 940 students need funding.
"So even though they were marked in our system as Tennessee Promise students, they never received a payment because they were receiving federal Pell grant dollars. They were getting additional HOPE funds, so they didn't need that last dollar component," Johnson said.
Johnson says because of that, they have stayed way below the allotted budget. He said they have given out around a million dollars at Northeast State in the two years of the program. For those who do need those funds, Johnson said it's critical.
"That is the ultimate barrier to education, and they're never going to come," he said.
Tennessee Promise applications are already open for the class of 2017. The deadline to fill those out is November 1. A big change for college students this year will be the deadline of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA form will now open in October, rather than January.
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