Learning from Tennessee Promise
It's not often New York looks to Tennessee for advice. Or at least not often they admit it. And...President Noland is featured in the article. From The New York Times.
In Tennessee, where Ms. Riel and other members of Tennessee’s first cohort of scholarship recipients graduate this spring, community college enrollment numbers are up by a third, while the amount that students are having to borrow from the federal government is down, though it is unclear what effect the money is having on on-time graduation, a key goal of the New York plan.
And at least some of the state’s four-year colleges have faced declining enrollment, as more students use community college as a steppingstone to a four-year degree. That experience may offer valuable lessons and caveats to New York and other places.
“We’re very encouraged by the early results,” said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican. “I don’t know I would say, ‘Andrew, you should have done it this way,’ but I would salute him for trying to find a solution that works for New York.”
Just a decade ago, Tennessee’s higher education outlook was bleak: A 2007 report card on state education initiatives, commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, gave the state an F in several categories, including “academic achievement of minority and low-income students” and “postsecondary and work force readiness.”
Under Mr. Haslam’s immediate predecessor, Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, the state changed its higher-education funding formula to reward colleges for, among other goals, successfully shepherding more students toward graduation.
In 2013, Mr. Haslam unveiled a multipronged initiative, “Drive to 55,” to increase the number of state residents with a college degree or certificate to 55 percent, from 32 percent, by 2025. That initiative eventually included the Tennessee Promise, which fills the gap between any aid students receive, such as federal Pell grants or merit scholarships, and their tuition and mandatory fees at the state’s community colleges or colleges of applied technology.
Tennessee’s approach — called “last dollar,” and similar to what New York is trying — contrasts with more established “first dollar” Promise programs in various cities. Under those programs, which are often financed by private money, scholarships are offered upfront before other aid is calculated. Those programs have proved very effective, researchers have found, but would also be more expensive on a large scale.