Coming Dec. 22: 2014-Year in Review
Looking back at 2014: A Retrospective
All across Tennessee, from Nashville to Memphis, from Knoxville to Chattanooga, community colleges are preparing to welcome the High School Class of 2015 — the first class to qualify for free tuition at the state’s two-year institutions. Late last fall, recruiters fanned out across the state to tell students about the Tennessee Promise, the landmark state scholarship program that will remove a critical barriers to college access: cost. Under the program, students will receive funding to cover the cost of tuition at the state’s 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology that is not covered by other scholarships or grants. It’s part of Gov. Bill Haslem’s “Drive to 55” initiative to see 55 percent of Tennesseans earn college degrees, up from the current 33 percent. Across the state, about 56,000 of the roughly 62,000 high school seniors have applied for free tuition, though state officials don’t expect that many to participate in the program. The results have pleased state officials, but they know expanding access is not enough. So they have been rounding up volunteer mentors to help guide the students through their college experience, contemplating adding more student support classes and expanding first-year seminar classes. The move toward free community college, also being contemplated in some other states, ranks as the top community college story of 2014. Also: gainful employment, the demise of for-profits, college ratings system and the rise of competency-based education.