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"Tennessee Promise" Gives Families a Chance to Send Kids to College

By Brittany Nicholson
By bnicholson@wbbjtv.com

NORTHEAST JACKSON -- A day after the Tennessee Promise initiative is approved by state lawmakers, families breathe a sigh of relief and area community colleges brace for more students.

The promise of two years of free college assures Wesley King can give his six children a bright future.

"It's something that has to be strategized, planned and worked for but hearing about that, it gives me comfort," he said.

Bobby Smith, the Interim Vice President at Jackson State Community College, said the "Tennessee Promise's" focus on community colleges is exciting.

"One of the fundamentals of a community college is providing open access, so having the opportunity to open those doors a little bit wider to give more people access; it's a great thing," Smith said.

The "Tennessee Promise," introduced by Governor Bill Haslam, will give each high school graduate the chance to go to a 2-year college or tech school for free.

The bill suggests the program begin in the fall of 2015.

"What we anticipate is a sharp spike in enrollment. So that's the positive side. What will be the challenge will be adjusting to that increase," Smith said.

Smith said the adjustment in resources and money is fluid. If and when enrollment goes up, he said they will begin adding instructors and looking for classroom space.

Smith said some state community colleges expect their enrollment to double.

"I believe it's great because people are struggling right now. That's a great thing to look forward to because everybody wants the chance to do better," Wesley King said.

Governor Haslam plans to pay for the program by using $300 million from the lottery and a $47 million endowment.
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