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Low-Income Students in Tennessee Get Opportunity in Form of Free Tuition
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49709"><span class="small">Sam Fulwood III, ThinkProgress</span></a>   
Sunday, 17 March 2019 13:10

Fulwood writes: "Joining a small, but growing list of U.S. colleges and universities seeking to make higher education more accessible to a greater number of qualified students, the University of Tennessee announced recently it would guarantee free tuition and fees to admitted in-state residents with a family household income of less than $50,000."

The University of Tennessee. (photo: AP)
The University of Tennessee. (photo: AP)


Low-Income Students in Tennessee Get Opportunity in Form of Free Tuition

By Sam Fulwood III, ThinkProgress

17 March 19


University officials announce plan to offer program to reduce the financial burden of attending college

oining a small, but growing list of U.S. colleges and universities seeking to make higher education more accessible to a greater number of qualified students, the University of Tennessee announced recently it would guarantee free tuition and fees to admitted in-state residents with a family household income of less than $50,000.

The novel program — called “UT Promise” — provides a financial aid package for in-state students who enroll at one of the system’s campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, or Martin. The UT Promise covers the cost of attending classes at the selected campuses, after all other financial aid, such as Pell Grants and HOPE Scholarships, are received.

Interim university President Randy Boyd unveiled the novel program Thursday during the university’s annual State of UT Address in Nashville, noting the program will begin with the incoming class in fall 2020 and seeks to eliminate cost as a barrier for students to obtain an undergraduate degree. Students already enrolled will be eligible to apply for the program.

“This isn’t a school just for the wealthy or the elite,” Boyd said in his speech. “This is a school for everyone. It is critically important that we take a lead role in ensuring students can achieve their dream of obtaining an undergraduate college degree. It is our mission and responsibility to do everything we can to ease the financial burden for our middle- and working-class families, and UT Promise is an ideal conduit to achieve that.”

According to the most current figures collected in the 2017/2018 U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics survey, Tennessee residents pay $30,930 per year to attend university on a full-time basis, a figure that includes $11,110 for tuition, $10,696 for room and board, $1,598 for books and supplies, and $1,860 for assorted other school fees.

The UT Promise isn’t available for out-of-state students, who are charged about $49,000 per year.

Under provisions of the program, admitted in-state students must qualify for the Hope Scholarship and meet the academic qualifications to be eligible for this new scholarship. In addition to the financial incentive, UT Promise students will be matched with volunteer mentors and will be required to complete four hours of service learning each semester.

According to a statement released by the university, 46 percent of the Tennessee system’s students graduate without debt and the goal of the new scholarship program is to make college more affordable to a greater number of in-state students. The university noted that five years ago it became the nation’s first state to make its community college system tuition-free for new high school graduates and later expanded that free-tuition program to older, returning adult students.

Funding for the program is expected to be provided by the University of Tennessee Foundation, which simultaneously announced an endowment campaign to support the scholarships. Until that funding stream is fully engaged, the university will cover all costs associated with the UT Promise, Boyd said.

College costs have skyrocketed over the past decade or so, as average tuition and fees at private four-year schools rose 26 percent and, worse, at four-year public schools soared by 34 percent. To combat the rising prices, which prevent many financially strapped students from even applying to college, university administrators and state officials have developed innovative scholarship programs to persuade students to apply to in-state schools.

Similar free-tuition programs are available in Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Indiana. Lawmakers in eight other states are considering similar programs.

Generally, the programs offer prospective students two years of free tuition at participating state community colleges or other associate-degree programs and vocational schools, with the opportunity to transfer into larger, flagship state universities. Also, for the most part, the financial aid is labeled as “last dollar” scholarships, meaning the program pays for whatever tuition is left after all other financial aid and grants are collected by the institution.

In some cases, the free tuition program is tied to beefing up the state’s future workforce. New York, for example, in 2017 became the first state to cover four years of tuition with its “Excelsior” program without tying the money to students’ academic performance. The Excelsior program requires attendance at a City University of New York (CUNY) or State University of New York (SUNY), taking at least 30 credits per year of classes and a plan to reside in the state for as many years as a student participated in the program.

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+1 # ourconstitution.info 2019-03-17 22:39
I hope programs like this become available to all in need, and that in turn, as many people as possible are able to contribute to society and live their dreams.