Tennessee Promise Scholarship providing opportunities to first-generation college students

This week for the first time, students headed to class at community colleges across the state, paid for by Governor Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise Scholarship.

At Northeast State Community College, here in the Tri-Cities, school officials said Tennessee Promise has doubled their enrollment number of students straight out of school.

They said this year they have about 1,200 first-time, full-time students, as opposed to the usual 600 to 700.

At least half of the incoming students have their tuition paid for by Tennessee Promise, the others have enough money from Pell Grants and other sources to cover the costs, but are still eligible should they need the money in the future.\

Because of the enrollment boom, Northeast State increased staffing. “We’ve had to hire, of course, in the core classes, so any student is going to have to take those same Comp 1, Comp 2 classes, math classes, so those are the ones that we really had to add instructors in,” said Joshua Johnson, Scholarship Programs Coordinator at Northeast State.

Johnson said many of the students attending on Tennessee Promise may not have had the opportunity to go to college otherwise.

“Thanks to Tennessee Promise, they’re coming here, they’re getting a college education, and they’re not just looking at Northeast State now, they’re looking at their future beyond to say ETSU, UT,” Johnson told News Channel 11.

“I just love medicine, it’s always interested me. I love the human body, I love how it works.” First-year student Jasmine Conner said the Tennessee Promise Scholarship is helping her work toward her goal of becoming a doctor.

“Now my goal is to have no undergrad debt at all. Hopefully, i want to get a scholarship from northeast and continue to ETSU, and then just have to pay for grad school,” Conner said.

Conner is a first-generation college student, and said her family is proud and excited.

“It’s inspired me to be like ‘You’re the first one, do it. Don’t end up how we did.’ I’m really excited and it’s really driven me to complete at least a Bachelor’s,” she said.

She told us she’s seen classmates also benefit from the program. “Its helped a lot, especially where I come from, Hampton, a lot of the kids were going to go into the military or something, to help pay that, because some of them didn’t have it. Not saying I had it, but its helped a lot.”

Conner said she thinks Tennesse Promise is changing lives. “They can achieve what they want to do, once you get here, it’s up to you. It doesn’t matter where you came from, who you are, you can do exactly what you want to do.”

Johnson said in order to make sure these students succeed, they have peer-to-peer mentoring programs with honor students available.

He also said students need to be working toward completing another 8 hours of community service by December 2nd, in order to keep their scholarship.

Copyright WJHL 2015. All rights reserved.

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