Students In Tennessee Now Have A Shot At Free Four-Year College | Nashville Public Radio

Students In Tennessee Now Have A Shot At Free Four-Year College

Mar 14, 2019

High-achieving students coming from families that make $50,000 or less will soon be able to attend the University of Tennessee for free. 

UT President Randy Boyd announced today the system is launching a new financial aid program — called UT Promise — which will begin in the Fall of 2020 and cover tuition and fees.

Under Tennessee Promise, any student can attend a 2-year community college for free. But this scholarship can help students go to a four year institution, says system President Randy Boyd.

"There were many of them that had the dream of being an architect or an engineer or something that requires a four-year degree," said Boyd. "But they didn’t think they had the finances to seek that option. So this will provide that option for those students too."

To be eligible, low-income students must qualify for the HOPE Scholarship, which requires a minimum ACT score of 21. Boyd said that shouldn't be hard for students to get, because the average ACT score throughout the system is much higher.

Boyd says the HOPE Scholarship also offsets the cost of the UT Promise program, which covers tuition and fees only after other aid has been applied.

"We’re going to be creating an endowment sometime in the next 60 days. In the interim, universities across the system are able to find other savings to be able to cover these costs," said Boyd.  

Tennessee Promise has come under scrutiny for only covering tuition, leaving students with unmanageable housing and textbook costs. Estimated costs for room and board alone at UT Knoxville is more than $11,000

Boyd says there are other sources of aid available for students to offset those costs as well. 

"There will be some students whose scholarship will be greater than the tuition and fees and they'll have extra funds to be able to cover room and board," said Boyd.

Students in the program will be matched with mentors and must complete four hours of community service each semester.  Both new and existing students will qualify across all of the college's campuses.