Imagine being able to go to college free of tuition and mandatory fees!
The State of Tennessee is making it possible for seniors at DeKalb County High School and across the state through Tennessee Promise. The program, proposed by Governor Bill Haslam and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year provides two years of tuition-free education. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program. After graduating from a community college, if students choose to attend a four-year school, the state’s transfer pathways program makes it possible for those students to start as a junior. By getting their first two years free, the cost of a four-year degree would be cut in half.
Interested students must apply for Tennessee Promise on line by no later than November 1 at www.TNPromise.gov.
Tennessee Promise is part of Governor Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school. According to the Governor, 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree to get a job in 11 years, while today, only 32 percent of Tennesseans qualify.
"We see this as an awesome opportunity for our graduating class. This can affect 185 students at DCHS. For many students who may not have even had higher education as a goal, we hope this will be their goal now since it's going to be funded," said Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12 in the DeKalb County School System in an interview with WJLE Monday.
Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it will cover all costs of tuition and mandatory fees not met by Pell grants, Tennessee Education Lottery (HOPE) Scholarship, and TSAA funds. As part of the program, students will be paired with a partnering organization and a mentor who will support them during the college application process. Students must participate with the partnering organizations to access Tennessee Promise funds.
All Tennessee Promise recipients must meet certain requirements, such as completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), meeting satisfactory academic progress, and completing eight hours of approved community service each semester. Applicants must be a Tennessee resident and a graduate from en eligible Tennessee high school or have completed the Tennessee home school program. Applicants may have obtained a GED or HiSet diploma prior to reaching their 19th birthday and still be eligible for Tennessee Promise. Students are not required to have attained a particular ACT score or GPA to qualify for the program.
To explain Tennessee Promise in more detail, Ann Massa, Regional Coordinator for TN Achieves will be at the high school on Thursday, September 18 at 9:20 a.m. to meet with all seniors. DCHS will also host a Financial Aid/College Planning Night and a Pre-FAFSA workshop on Monday, September 29 at 5:00 p.m. in the DCHS cafeteria. The guest speakers will be Ann Massa and Sam Mullins, Outreach Specialist with the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation."We will be providing support at the high school for students who need help with college applications or FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), or their Tennessee Promise application," Lori Myrick, DCHS Guidance Counselor told WJLE.
Beyond the Tennessee Promise application, students must meet the following deadlines and requirements:
*Apply by November 1. Students must apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship at www.TNPromise.gov.
*File the FAFSA by February 15. Students must file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by February 15 at www.fafsa.gov. "Realizing that many of them (students) don't have their income taxes filled out (filed) by that time (February 15) they can estimate according to their tax dollars from the year before," said Cripps.
*Attend mandatory meetings by March 1 and May 31. Students are required to attend the first and second mandatory meetings at DCHS.
*Students will need to complete eight hours of approved community service for each semester they receive Tennessee Promise funding, including the summer before they begin college. Students should check with their partnering organization for specific community service deadlines.
*Apply to and register for classes at an eligible program. Before the fall semester begins, students will need to apply to a community college, college of applied technology, or eligible program at a four year institution. Partnering organizations may ask students to apply to an eligible college program by February 15. Scholarship funds will be paid directly to the school once their enrollment is confirmed.
DCHS students in grades 9-12 and their parents are strongly encouraged to attend the Financial Aid/College Planning Night and Pre-FAFSA Workshop on Monday, September 29 at 5:00 p.m. at the high school in order to receive important information concerning college/technical school application, financial aid, and scholarships including the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship. Mullins will also be conducting a Pre-FAFSA Workshop during this event. Students and parents must fill out the FAFSA in January of the student's senior year in order to apply for state and federal financial aid including the lottery scholarship. This workshop is designed to help students and parents prepare for FAFSA filing. "The FAFSA can sometimes be intimidating to students and families who have not filled that out before. If parents and students will attend on September 29, Mr. Mullins will let everyone know every step they need to follow to complete their FAFSA at this workshop. The deadline for completing the FAFSA for Tennessee Promise is February 15 but I want all my students to fill out their FAFSA in January or as close to January 1 as they possibly can. There is a state grant called the Tennessee Student Assistance Award and that is first come, first served for students based on income eligibility so I encourage all my students to fill out their FAFSA if they can as close as possible to January 1," Myrick said.
Students and parents are advised of other important dates:
"On Tuesday, September 30 during first, third, and fifth block, Ms. Walteen Parker has graciously opened up her English 12 classroom. Any student who needs help with a scholarship essay is welcome to come to Ms. Parker's classroom during those times to get some tips on essay writing. It is very important that students have someone proof read their essay," said Myrick.
"On Wednesday, October 1 , Ms. Shelly Painter and I will have a college application workshop in the counseling office. We will have a computer lab in the counseling office as we will the day before in Ms. Parker's classroom, and students are welcome to come there or they may bring their own mobile device or computer to get their college applications done. We will help them with that," Myrick continued.
"Our Parent-Teacher conference night is October 7 from 3-6 p.m., Ms. Painter and I will be in the library at DCHS to help any student who has not completed their college or Tennessee Promise application by that time. Also on October 7, Motlow Community College at their McMinnville campus will have a Tennessee Promise Information Night starting at 5:30 p.m. and any student interested in going to Motlow, if they go to Motlow that night to complete their Tennessee Promise application and their Motlow application, Motlow will waive the student's twenty five dollar enrollment fee" said Myrick.
"All of our community colleges and technical colleges in the state are having a Tennessee Promise information event. They are in the process of getting the events posted on their websites so we encourage students and parents to visit the campus of the college where they are interested in going and attend the Tennessee Promise events that are scheduled," she said.
Again, a Tennessee Promise Scholarship must be used at one of the state community colleges or state technical colleges or Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology. "There are also private community colleges and some four year colleges that have two year programs where Tennessee Promise money can be used. If students choose to participate in Tennessee Promise and go to one of the eligible private community colleges or four year college programs, the entire cost will not be covered. You only get the money for what it would cost to go to one of the state schools. Tennessee Promise is also different from the Lottery Scholarship. The Lottery Scholarship is still in effect. Students who meet eligibility based on GPA and ACT are still eligible for the Lottery Scholarship should they choose to go to a four year college versus a two year college. If students use Tennessee Promise to earn an Associate's Degree, they are still lottery eligible if they meet guidelines once they get to the four year colleges if they want to go on for a Bachelor's Degree," Myrick concluded.
For those interested in being a mentor to Tennessee Promise students, contact Graham Thomas at 615-604-1306 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Background checks are required for mentors.
Meanwhile, in support of the Tennessee Promise initiative, Justin Potter Library will commit to the following actions:
1. Starting Sept 25 through Oct. 30, Justin Potter Library will provide computers and quiet space each Thursday from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. for our high school seniors to go online at www.TNPromise.gov to apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship, for adults to sign up as mentors and or community members for find out more information about this initiative.
2. Dec. 4 through Jan 15, those computers and space can be used Thursdays from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the students' college applications.
3. Starting Jan 22 through Feb 26, TNPromise scholars can complete their eight hours of community service as volunteers at Justin Potter Library on Thursdays between the hours of 3:00 - 5:00 pm.