As an alumna of the University of Tennessee, I am incredibly proud of Interim President Randy Boyd’s announcement that the University of Tennessee system is working to expand access to higher education through the new UT Promise program.  

UT Promise is a scholarship program that offers free tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying Tennessee students (with a family household income of less than $50,000) at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, and UT Martin. Eligible students must qualify for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship and meet the academic qualifications for the institution to be eligible for the scholarship. Students must also give back to the community by completing eight volunteer service hours each semester.

UT Promise, like Tennessee Promise, is a last-dollar scholarship. This means it covers tuition and fees not already covered by Pell grants, the HOPE scholarship, or state student assistance funds. Tennessee Promise is the first program of its kind in the nation and allows Tennessee high school graduates to attend a community college or a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) free of tuition and fees. UT Promise builds on the message of Tennessee Promise and expands it to four-year universities.

Although eliminating the financial barrier is important, UT Promise is not simply a scholarship program. UT Promise will offer high-impact supports to help students transition from high school to postsecondary education. Students will be paired with a faculty or staff mentor their freshmen and sophomore years to help them acclimate to campus life. Juniors and seniors will then receive a community mentor to help connect them to people in their field of study and prepare them for a successful career. UT Promise is focused both on access and persistence — the goal is not to just make higher education more accessible but to also provide the support students need to graduate and earn a competitive degree.

UT partnered with tnAchieves to make the program as streamlined as possible for high school students. Students across Tennessee will simultaneously complete all the steps for UT Promise and TN Promise, enabling them to choose to either attend a community college, TCAT, or UT campus free of tuition and mandatory fees.

With the Drive to 55 goal of having 55 percent of adults hold  a credential or postsecondary degree by 2025, Tennessee has led the nation with programs to support college entry and completion. Programs like Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, Knox Promise, and now UT Promise, are making a big difference in people’s lives. UT Promise is helping more Tennesseans complete a postsecondary degree and be workforce ready. UT Promise begins in Fall 2020, with 2,000 students expected to be impacted. Learn more about UT Promise at the University of Tennessee website.

Annie Freeland is SCORE’s senior K-12 policy analyst.