KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Across the country, college enrollment is on the decline. In Tennessee, enrollment rates are down 9.4%. The state is working to change that by reducing or eliminating student debt.
A pilot program launched in Knox County will provide college coaching.
Knox Promise is a scholarship program launched by TNAchieves. It is helping more people go to college. Americans owe $1.75 trillion in student loan debt. TNAchieves President and CEO Krissy DeAlejandro said that is one of the roadblocks keeping people from going.
"Tennessee Promise, they can attend community or technical college tuition-free, so that is a big win for Tennessee students that students across the country do not have in their corner as they're pursuing a college degree," DeAlejandro said. "To make sure you're following your passion but also being mindful of workforce trends. I think that is where the magic lies in the current economy.”
She said to date, the undergraduate student body dropped by nearly 1.4 million students or 9.4% during the pandemic. Because of this, TNAchieve is launching Knox Promise as a statewide initiative. It provides up $3,000 in non-tuition money for students in the program. Students can then use that money for food, housing, books and computers.
"College is for everyone. We want to level the playing field for our economically disadvantaged families," DeAlejandro said. "Let Tennessee Promise help you find yourself on the way to a college credential.”
She said this widening opportunity is unique to Tennessee. That Gov. Bill Lee and the General Assembly are responsible for allocating state dollars toward higher education.
There's help for those wanting to attend a four-year university, too. The University of Tennessee Knoxville reports record-high enrollment for 2022.
"Part of it is because of a new program we call UT Promise that says if your family income is less than $60,000 which is more than half of the population of Knoxville and Knox County can come to any of our colleges free of tuition and fees," UT President Randy Boyd said.
Tennessee Promise also provides a mentorship program to help students navigate college once they get there. They need 500 volunteers for the upcoming school year. Find out how to volunteer, here.