Record-breaking number of students apply for Tennessee Promise

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) recently launched a state-level vision and initiative to create a momentum-building year with key goals to increase the college-going rate and better align education to meet the state’s growing workforce needs. 

As an early indicator for the momentum year, a record-breaking number of students applied for Tennessee Promise program in the most recent application cycle that closed on November 1, 2022.

Preliminary data for the High School Class of 2023 show that 64,612 high school seniors applied for Tennessee Promise, the most in the program’s history to date. 

The Tennessee Promise program includes a last-dollar scholarship that provides recent high school graduates the opportunity to complete an associate degree or certificate program free of tuition and mandatory fees at a public community college, a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT), or a public or private university with an eligible associate degree program. As a last-dollar scholarship, Tennessee Promise funds the remaining balance of tuition and mandatory fees after all other gift aid has been applied. The program pairs Tennessee Promise students with a mentor and support through the state’s partnering organizations, tnAchieves and The Ayers Foundation.

Each year, THEC produces a report outlining the impact of Tennessee Promise. The annual report presents descriptive data on Tennessee Promise applicants and students, student outcomes, student transfer behavior, and program finances. Today, THEC released the Tennessee Promise Annual Report for 2022 with several key findings:

  • Since inception, over 123,000 Tennessee Promise students have received over $181 million in scholarships to alleviate college costs.
  • Over 31,000 Tennessee Promise students have earned a credential since the program began. This translates to 47.9% of cohort one, 45.3% of cohort two, 40.8% of cohort three, and 35.1% of cohort four earning a credential. Like with transfer, the number of degrees earned will continue to grow as the program matures.
  • Over 15,000 Tennessee Promise students have transferred to a four-year Tennessee public university to continue their education. This number continues to grow as the Promise program matures.
  • The 2021 decline in Tennessee Promise student enrollment is consistent with declines in college-going observed for the Class of 2021 overall, as found in THEC’s College Going and the Class of 2021 Report.

Major Momentum Year for the Class of 2023 is Growing

Last week, THEC completed a series of regional meetings across the state to share the state-level goals, to garner buy-in, and to discuss localized college-going rate data and strategies to support student success with local education agencies, higher education institutions, business and industry and workforce development leaders, and community-based organizations. 

In total, THEC hosted and engaged with more than 500 leaders and participants during the regional meetings. THEC will continue to collect, analyze, and outline the key learnings from the momentum year and determine and release recommendations to build on the momentum with a new long-term vision and attainment goal for the state.

 With Tennessee’s college-going rate trending downward over the past five years, the entire state is coming together to take swift action to inform and engage more students with the many educational and job training options they have after high school.