Tennessee Says Yes To Free Higher-Education Tuition
The Tennessee House and Senate have approved a measure that allows for two free years of tuition at community colleges or technical schools for all all the state's high school graduates. The proposal not only has the backing of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, it was based on his idea.
Moreover, the legislation passed by an overwhelming majority. The state's House of Representatives voted in favor of the legislation with a 87-8 margin.
When the plan, called Tennessee Promise, becomes law, should provide free higher education for about 25,000 students in the state beginning in 2015. It will only benefit incoming freshmen. College sophomores attending two year schools in 2015 will not be able to participate in the plan, but will still be eligible for other state financial aid programs.
The estimated cost of the program is $34 annually. Money will be transferred from the proceeds of the Tennessee Lottery to create an endowment for the program.
In 2007 a similar proposal by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen failed in the Tennessee legislature.
Several other states have considered similar programs, as the cost of a college education continues to climb and as high school diplomas no longer guarantee a living wage.
California was the first state to suspend college tuition for public colleges back in 1960. However, fiscal pressures and a the Reagan Administration's cuts to education funding forced the state to drop the program in 1984. Yet, California's public colleges still have the lowest tuition rates in the country.