Tennessee Promise students outperforming peers, Board of Regents told

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam shakes hands with practical nursing students after signing into law the Tennessee Promise program at Chattanooga State Technical Community College in 2013.

Tennessee Promise students are outperforming their peers at community colleges in their persistence, completion rates and other success measures, an official told the Tennessee Board of Regents today.

Dr. Russ Deaton, TBR executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success, presented supporting data to the board at its quarterly meeting in Memphis.

The first class of Tennessee Promise students entered college in the fall of 2015. After four semesters - through the spring 2017 semester - 56.2 percent of the first class of Promise students either are still enrolled, have earned a college credential, or transferred to a four-year university, figures show. That compares to 38.9 percent of their peers (first-time freshmen at community colleges that fall who were also recent high school graduates but did not take part in the Promise program) - a 17.3 percentage point difference.

Tennessee Promise, the nation's first statewide program for tuition-free community and technical college, provides students up to five semesters of tuition-free attendance at a community college or college of applied technology.

These results through four semesters indicate the program has accelerated college enrollment, encouraged more full-time enrollment (an important indicator of student success), and accelerated award rates (degrees or other program certifications), according to Deaton.

"These numbers are the first evidence that Tennessee Promise is doing exactly what Governor Haslam and the General Assembly designed - getting more students into college, including students who might not otherwise be able to attend, and helping them succeed once they get here," TBR Chancellor Flora Tydings said. "It's a visionary program that other states are beginning to emulate. We look forward to the fifth semester results on the first class of TN Promise students in January."

The board governs the College System of Tennessee, the state's 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology. The analysis of the first TN Promise cohort covers the students' performance through their first four semesters.