(WBIR) Gov. Bill Haslam promoted his new plan to provide free community college to all high school seniors during his visit to Knoxville Friday.
Haslam said at the annual Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast that education is key to bringing new employers to Tennessee. This push is part of Haslam's "Drive for 55" initiative, which is an effort to raise the proportion of Tennesseans with a college degree or advanced certificate to 55 percent by 2025 from a current level of 32 percent.
Haslam proposed free community college during his State of the State Address Monday. His proposal would waive tuition and fees for community colleges and technology centers for two years.
The governor said right now the No. 1 concern he hears from potential businesses is that Tennessee can't provide a quality workforce.
"We're doing this to really do a couple of things: One provide that opportunity for families who never thought they would have it; And second to prepare the right work force for Tennessee," said Haslam.
The governor said he's confident state lawmakers will pass his proposal despite a similar plan submitted by former Gov. Phil Bredesen seven years ago. Haslam said the difference this time around is that the state now has $300 million more funding to put towards education thanks to the state lottery.