Haslam wants free tuition for high school seniors - WSMV News 4

Haslam wants free tuition for high school seniors

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A new education initiative proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam will make it tough for graduating high school seniors in Tennessee to find an excuse not to further their education.

During his State of the State address Monday evening, the Republican governor unveiled a plan to allow them to attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology free of tuition and fees.

The governor wants 55-percent of adults in the state to hold a degree beyond a high school diploma.

The day after the governor's speech, the president of Columbia State revealed plans for a new Franklin campus, thanks to more than $30 million set aside in the budget unveiled during the State of the State address.

"It's hard to describe what you feel inside, because it has been a long road getting here, and it's been a lot of people," said Columbia State president Janet Smith.

In the coming years, the governor will bet big on community and technical schools.

"We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee," Haslam said.

Additionally, the governor already has a plan to pay for the program, using lottery proceeds to establish a self-sufficient fund.

The governor estimates the program would cost $34 million a year.

Participants would need to agree to mentorship and community service to take advantage.

"Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are raising our expectations as a state," Haslam said.

The plans for Columbia State's new campus call for three buildings and space for 2,200 students. It would mark considerable growth for the college, which it might just need if the state opens access to many more would-be students.

"Yes, it does provide opportunities for students - opportunities for some that may not go otherwise," Smith said.

The state legislature must sign off on the Tennessee Promise plan and the budget.

Columbia State plans to open its new Franklin campus in a little more than two years.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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