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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — As many as 18,000 Tennessee Promise students could use the scholarship to begin classes this week at a state community or technical college.
Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to visit some campuses on Monday and Tuesday to help kickoff the program he created to provide high school graduates with two years of tuition-free attendance at the two-year institutions, which start classes on Monday.
As of Aug. 1, there were more than 22,000 students qualified to attend through the program.
Shelby County has the largest number of qualified students at 2,512, followed by Knox County with 1,733. Davidson County had 1,202 qualified students.
Tennessee Promise executive director Mike Krause told The Associated Press on Sunday that he expects between 16,000 and 18,000 students to actually enroll.
More than 58,000 high school seniors initially applied for the scholarship, and over 31,500 of those students filed the Free Applications for Federal Student Aid as part of the application process for the program.
Krause told The Tennessean in an interview last week that the federal process for receiving college aid can be complicated enough to keep some students from enrolling, and that it needs to be simplified.
"There's no question the current federal financial aid process can serve as a barrier, and that's what makes the work, we think, of the Tennessee Promise so important, because we try to help students navigate that," he said. "There's no doubt we need to continue to push for a simplified process."
Tennessee Promise was launched as part of Haslam's "Drive to 55" initiative, which aims to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate beyond high school, help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.
A similar program, Tennessee Reconnect, was also created by Haslam and allows adults to attend one of the state's 27 colleges of applied technology for free by paying tuition and fees not covered by existing grants and scholarships
"The state's ability to attract and retain business is tied directly to the quality of our workforce," Haslam spokesman Dave Smith told The Associated Press earlier this summer. "We know that reaching high school graduates won't be enough. Gov. Haslam believes we must find ways for adults to return to higher education."
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