• TN Promise Helps
    Knock Out Tuition Costs

    Posted by Josh Flory on 9/21/2018

    LeMichael Moulden wants to be an Olympic boxer, but in the meantime he’s fighting for a different kind of prize.

    Moulden, a senior at Austin-East Magnet High School, plans to take advantage of Tennessee Promise, a scholarship and mentoring program that provides two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college.

    Moulden enjoys drawing and designing logos, and is planning to attend Pellissippi State or Roane State after he graduates from Austin-East. He’s been boxing for seven years, and said the training has helped keep him out of trouble and motivated for his studies.

    But he also acknowledged that anything can happen, and if a broken hand derails his boxing dream, a community college degree “would be a major help for me to fall back on and still be able to keep myself up and going as far as living.”

    That’s a good way to summarize the goal of Tennessee Promise, which aims to increase the number of students attending college.

    The program is a “last-dollar” scholarship, which means it covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees that are not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship, or the Tennessee Student Assistance Award.

    Students can use it at Tennessee’s 13 community colleges or 27 colleges of applied technology. It is not merit-based or income-based, but once in the program students must maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete 8 hours of community service per term. The program does not cover the cost of books or living expenses.

    Austin-East senior LeMichael Moulden and counselor Amanda Martin sit in the computer lab on September 18, 2018.
    Austin-East senior LeMichael Moulden and counselor Amanda Martin talk in the computer lab on September 18, 2018.

    Amanda Martin, an 11th- and 12th-grade counselor at Austin-East, said any student considering a two-year school should take advantage of Tennessee Promise.

    “I think unfortunately some students have a negative stigma against going to a two-year,” Martin said. “They say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do that, I have to go to a four-year, I have to get that true college experience.’ (But) there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting at a two-year. You’re going to probably have smaller class sizes (and) get more support from the college there.”

    Applications for Tennessee Promise must be submitted by November 1, and students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

    Cynthia Manning-Dirl, a college access coach with Project Grad who works at Austin-East, said the program has changed the college access equation for many students, and helps put them on the path to a good career without spending a lot of money or taking on debt.

    “So you can apply to all these colleges but at the end it’s all about the money: Who’s giving you the most bang for your buck, how much money they’re giving you.”