Both Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean were on hand Monday morning at Nashville State’s southeast campus for the announcement of a new program offering free community college and technical school tuition to all Metro public school graduates.
The initiative, called “nashvilleAchieves,” makes Davidson County the twenty-sixth in the state to offer high school seniors such a deal under a larger umbrella organization called tnAchieves. That organization was started five years ago by Randy Boyd, a Knoxville pet supply mogul and higher-ed adviser to Gov. Haslam.
Boyd spoke at Monday’s event, urging Metro businesses and community members to donate time and money to the program.
The tuition subsidies, which will be especially geared toward low-income and first-generation college goers but open to all graduates, will be paid for with a mixture of public funding and private donations.
According to a press release from Mayor Dean’s office, nashvilleAchieves has already tallied up $1 million in donations from corporate and nonprofit sources while the city plans to commit $750,000 over the next two years.
Speaking to reporters following the announcement, Dean described the programs as “especially meaningful” because it allows the county to “make it possible for every graduating high school senior to go to community college.”
“The city’s future is dependent upon us being a city that produces and attracts college graduates,” he added.
Increasing access to higher education statewide has been a top priority for Gov. Haslam’s administration. During his remarks Monday, Haslam said that only about a third of Tennesseans currently hold an advanced degree and he hailed tnAchieves as a valuable way to raise that number.
“tnAchieves has a proven record of providing the support that ultimately leads to increased post-secondary access, retention and completion,” Haslam said in prepared remarks, adding during a post-event press conference, “The better graduates we produce, then the more businesses are going to want to say ‘we want to be here.’”
Haslam has announced a goal, the so-called “Drive to 55,” to raise the number of state residents with an advanced to degree to 55 percent by 2025. Right the number number is around 32 percent, the governor has said.