KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Haslams announced Wednesday they are joining together with several other organizations to invest $6.2 million over the next three years in a new initiative designed to help Tennessee Promise-eligible students in Knox County.

The pilot program will be called Knox Promise.

Its goal is to provide students with additional financial and coaching support to get through college, according to the group.

Who's eligible? 

Members of the 2019 and 2020 Knox County high school graduating classes who qualify for Tennessee Promise. 

How will it work? 

With Completion Grants to offset unexpected or emergency expenses, a textbook support stipend, a “dedicated tnAchieves Completion Coach” and a Summer Support Program in 2020 and 2021.

Why was it created?

Jim Haslam, the founder of the Haslam Family Foundation which is making the investment, said he wanted to find a way to help others experience the same academic support he had at UT.

“When I asked what could we do to help more of our students succeed and actually graduate from college, the message was clear: We need to knock down some remaining financial barriers and offer additional support to those students who need it the most,” he explained.

Knox Promise announcement
Scene from the announcement of Knox Promise, a new program to help Tennessee Promise-eligible Knox County students, on June 19, 2019.
Leslie Ackerson / WBIR

The program is a partnership between tnAchieves, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), the Haslam Family Foundation and several other area institutions like Pellissippi State Community College.

“Knox Promise is a first-of-its-kind community-based initiative that provides additional financial and coaching support to help more Tennessee Promise students successfully navigate their way through college,” Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves, said in the release.

Knox Promise sign
Scene from announcement of Knox Promise on June 19, 2019.
Leslie Ackerson / WBIR

“Thanks to Mr. Haslam and this generous investment, tnAchieves will be able to provide more hands-on coaching and address student-specific needs that cause too many of our students to leave college before earning their degree. We are thrilled to share this exciting program with our eligible students and families.”

Jim Haslam, the founder of the Haslam Family Foundation which is making the investment, said in the release that the support and focus he received while at UT made all the difference in his academic career, and that he wanted to find a way to help others experience the same thing.

"When I asked what could we do to help more of our students succeed and actually graduate from college, the message was clear: We need to knock down some remaining financial barriers and offer additional support to those students who need it the most,” he explained.

Knox Promise
Randy Boyd speaks at the announcement of Knox Promise, a new program to help Tennessee Promise-eligible Knox County students, on June 19, 2019.
Leslie Ackerson / WBIR

Randy Boyd, UT’s interim president and board chair of tnAchieves, said the program won’t just help students, it will also help Knox County’s workforce by increasing the number of students earning degrees and other credentials, creating a more highly skilled workforce in the region.

“We think it could be a real game-changer for many of our students and families here in Knox County,” he explained in the release. “I am also very pleased to see it launched here in Knox County, the original home of knoxAchieves, which eventually expanded into tnAchieves, and later into the Tennessee Promise.”

Knox Promise announcement
David Mansouri speaks at the announcement of Knox Promise, a new program to help Tennessee Promise-eligible Knox County students, on June 19, 2019.
Leslie Ackerson / WBIR

David Mansouri, the president and CEO of SCORE, took a look at how Knox Promise will complement what Tennessee Promise already does for students in the state.

“By offering high school graduates two years of tuition-free community or technical college, Tennessee Promise has already increased college enrollment and degree attainment throughout the state,” he said in the release. “We believe that the Knox Promise model announced today can create something that other communities can learn from and potentially replicate across Tennessee and the nation.”

The program will be evaluated by UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research to determine how well the program works and its impact.

For more on Knox Promise, visit tnAchieves.org/KnoxPromise.