More Tennessee high school students college hopefuls

Advocating higher education for all. President Obama spoke in Knoxville on Friday touting Tennessee’s new program to send high school students to community college for two years free of charge. The new program is called Tennessee Promise.

President Obama said in his speech he hopes similar programs will be available nation-wide, “What matters is effort and merit, the promise of America. And the way we deliver on that is making sure our education system works on behalf of every person who lives here.”

The President says he’ll promote his plan for free higher education for any American in his State of the Union Address. Though here in the Local 6 region, more Tennessee high school students are signing up for college than any year before.

South Fulton High School Guidance Counselor, Pam Burrow says its something she’s never seen in her school before. The graduating class is smaller than other schools with 58 students, but almost 100 percent of the graduating class is hoping to be college bound. Burrow says all but five students applied for the state’s new program this year.

Burrow says they encouraged their students greatly to apply for the program in November. They even hosted local community college and vocational school representatives. Burrow says, “We encouraged all of our students to apply, at least to apply so they have the opportunity.”

Students like Kristen Crocker and Cory Pinion are two seniors who signed up for the program. While Crocker will work in a hospital as a radiologist technician after two years of community college, Pinion plans to enroll in the police academy with his major in criminal justice.

Both say they feel fortunate enough to take advantage of an opportunity. Pinion says, “I don’t think most people would’ve gone to college if it wasn’t for this program.”

They’re both eager to head out of town and begin their higher education on their new ‘promise’. Burrow says she’s excited for her students’ opportunity because she knows how important it is, “It’s just required now to succeed in life to have an education higher than high school diploma.”

Students who do receive the funding from Tennessee Promise will have to meet certain requirements. Some of these are maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA and attending team meetings to make sure they’re still on task in class. Students and families will also still have to complete a federal financial aid application, or the FAFSA. The program is to help fund in-state tuition to community colleges and vocational schools in addition to scholarships, grants, and aid.

The funding will be available for a maximum of five semesters at a community college or eight trimesters at a vocational school.

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