Haslam seeks free tuition plan for adults

Tennessee Gov. Bill HaslamTennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam this week unveiled a program that would allow adults to gain a college degree for free.

Adults in Tennessee without degrees can already attend Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology tuition free but Haslam said his proposed Tennessee Reconnect program would be the first of its kind in the country to include community colleges.

“I believe the state of our state has never been better,” Haslam said, noting that more Tennesseeans have jobs than ever before but obstacles still remain between adults and a college diploma.

“I am proposing that Tennessee become the first state in the nation to offer all adults access to community college free of tuition and fees,” he said.

This proposal is part of the Drive to 55 Initiative announced three years ago that hopes to have at least 55 percent of Tennessean’s to have a degree from a technical, community, or four-year college by 2025.

“With the Reconnect Act, Tennessee would be the first in the nation to offer all citizens, high school students, and adults, access to a degree to certificate, free of tuition and fees,” Haslam said.

He said he wants to make a clear statement to families across the state: “Wherever you might fall on life’s path, education beyond high school is critical to the Tennessee we can be.”

Haslam’s plan would be open to any adult who has lived in Tennessee for at least a year and does not have an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Governor Haslam also unveiled the Tennessee Strong Act.

His proposal would establish a four-year pilot program for eligible members of the Tennessee National Guard to receive a last-dollar tuition reimbursement toward a first-time bachelor’s degree at public universities and colleges.

About 900,000 adults in Tennessee have attended some college, but have no degree.

The announcements came as the governor submitted his $37 billion annual state budget for Tennessee.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.