Tennessee Promise Scholarship Program Sees Record Applicants

More than 64,000 high school seniors applied for the statewide mentoring and scholarship program.
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  • More than 64,000 high school seniors applied for the Tennessee Promise program during the most recent application cycle.
  • Tennessee Promise includes last-dollar scholarships and mentoring for students to attend community colleges and colleges of applied technology.
  • The increase in applicants comes after a continued drop in the state's college-going rate was reported this year.
  • Tennessee officials described those declines as a "call to action" earlier this year.

A record number of high school students applied for a statewide last-dollar scholarship program in Tennessee this year, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

A total of 64,612 high school seniors applied for the Tennessee Promise mentoring and scholarship program during the most recent application cycle, setting a program record, according to a Tennessee Higher Education Commission release.

The Tennessee Promise program covers tuition and fees at the state's 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology, according to the program's website. The scholarship takes on a last-dollar format, meaning it covers tuition and fees not already covered by the federal Pell Grant, the Tennessee Student Assistance Award, or the state's HOPE Scholarship.

Quotation mark

The record-setting numbers are a positive note after the state reported the number of high school graduates who immediately enrolled in college continued to decline in 2021.

The college-going rate for high school graduates was 52.8% for the class of 2021, according to a report released this summer, down roughly 4 percentage points from the previous year — and well below the more than 60% rate in the years before the pandemic.

State officials said at the time that the college-going rate dropoff was a "call to action," as more than 68% of the respondents to the report's survey said they eventually want to attend college.

The report identified disparities along racial lines, with Black students and Hispanic and Latino students having their plans changed more frequently than white students.

More than 123,000 students have received more than $181 million in scholarships since the Tennessee Promise program began, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's release. And more than 31,000 students have earned a credential as part of the program.

Roughly 47.9% of the program's first cohort, 45.3% of the program's second cohort, 40.8% of the program's third cohort, and 35.1% of the program's fourth cohort earned a degree, although officials expect that figure to grow over time, according to the release.

Also, another 15,000 students have transferred to a four-year Tennessee public university to continue their education, another figure that officials expect to grow.

"With Tennessee's college-going rate trending downward over the past five years, the entire state is coming together to take swift action to inform and engage more students with the many educational and job training options they have after high school," the release reads.