LeBron James’ free college program takes cue from Northeast State

BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL) – As Tennessee Promise continues in its second year, Northeast State Community College has welcomed more than 1,600 students through the tuition-free community college program.

This year’s Tennessee Promise enrollment numbers are not in yet, but we know in its first year more than 16,000 students took advantage of the program at both community colleges and colleges of applied technology. Earlier this month, the governor announced a record number of Tennessee Promise applicants for next year’s freshman class. After its first year, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission reported a 25% increase in the number of high school graduates attending community colleges.

Northeast State officials hope the program continues to be a success. Before the program, Sullivan County and Kingsport both offered similar programs for area students. That’s why Northeast State County and State Scholarships Coordinator Joshua Johnson says the college was able to quickly embrace the program and the 1,600 students who have come with it.

He says the community already bought into the idea of getting more students here years ago. Sullivan County started its program in 2001.

“If we didn’t have the support at the high schools that we have then we would not have the success in the program that we do,” he said. “That model here I think put us at Northeast State in a great position to foster Tennessee Promise.”

Tennessee Promise offers a tuition and fee-free education for two years and requires mentors and community service. It is seen as a leading program nationwide.

Johnson says national leaders are looking at both Tennessee and Northeast States’ success so far. In fact, he says when NBA star LeBron James announced his plan to help 1,000 kids attend college in Ohio, the mayor of Akron called Northeast State looking for help.

Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.

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