State of the States

State of the States: Tennessee

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Gov. Bill Haslam (R)
Date of Speech Feb. 3

Gov. Haslam pledged to expand high school dual enrollment and pay the first two years of college tuition for every Tennessee high school graduate, as part of a massive effort to boost the number of students who complete higher education.

The "Tennessee Promise" announced in the governor's fourth State of the State address, would provide free tuition and fees for two years of community college or applied technology school, with students who graduate from those programs able to transfer credits to be counted as juniors in a four-year college. It would be part of the "Drive to 55" initiative to ensure 55 percent of Tennesseans earn a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2025.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam
—Mark Zaleski/AP

The initiative also would pay for the first dual-enrollment college course taken by a high school student and provide discounts for future courses. It would also expand the Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support program—which provides math remediation to high school seniors to reduce the need for remedial college courses—from 8,000 to 12,000 students.

The governor also pledged to expand the state's Degree Compass, a pilot data program modeled on the Netflix video service, which recommends useful college courses to students based on their high school transcripts and field of study.

The governor praised the state for being the first in the nation to provide transitional support services to 100 percent of students leaving the foster care system. And he also defended the state's adoption of the Common Core State Standards, arguing they would not define local curriculum, but "With all of the progress we're making, how can we argue against higher standards? They are making a difference."

Of a $120 million in new K-12 education spending, Gov. Haslam proposed $47 million in school formula funding and more than $63 million for teacher salaries. In higher education, he proposed $128 million in university facilities maintenance and construction, as well as $13 million in incentives for colleges based on their graduation rates, as opposed to enrollment figures. He would pay for the Tennessee Promise program by creating an endowment from state lottery reserve funds.

Vol. 33, Issue 21, Page 25

Published in Print: February 19, 2014, as Tennessee
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