Initiative Holds Promise of Education, Future

Article excerpt

In February, during his State of the State address, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed something extraordinary.

He introduced the Tennessee Promise, an initiative that will provide "last-dollar" scholarships at community colleges within the state, providing the opportunity for every Tennessee high school graduate to attend college for free. This program will cover the gaps between tuition costs and a student's available financial aid and is a logical next step in our state's commitment to raising educational attainment.

Tennessee has been on the cutting edge of higher education reform in our nation, first with the passage of the Complete College Tennessee Act in 2010, and later with the launch of the "Drive to 55."

This Drive to 55 sets an ambitious goal of increasing the number of Tennesseans with an associate degree or technical certificate from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

As a business leader, I can personally attest that this goal is not just a statistical benchmark. Reaching the Drive to 55 is an economic imperative for our state, and will ensure that companies, such as the members of the Tennessee Business Roundtable, are able to find qualified workers right here in Tennessee.

Unfortunately, the current condition of our workforce can make the task of finding new employees a challenge. Among Tennessee's current high school graduates, 41 percent fail to enroll in college. Increasing the number of students who enter higher education requires us to remove all hurdles, especially financial barriers, which hinder students from pursuing the opportunities a college degree affords. …