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Tennessee Promise awarded $207M in scholarships in 10 years

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(The Center Square) – Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Tennessee Promise scholarship, which helps students in the state pay for college.

The program has used $207 million to support the enrollment of more than 150,000 students since 2014.

Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it will cover costs after other scholarships are factored in at community colleges, or it will fund up to the $4,000 average community college tuition mark for associate degree programs at four-year schools.

An evaluation of the program earlier this year from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability said Promise has been effective but changes could make it more efficient.

The report recommended expanding the reach of the funds or adding a minimum Promise payment while showing that most Promise students at community colleges, especially those studying nursing, do not complete a degree within the program’s five-semester limit.

The report suggests the state extend the program for at least some students to increase the rate of degree attainment.

During this legislative session, a law was created to also use the funds for summer coursework.

But a bill to expand the funding for low-income students through the Tennessee Promise program did not advance. That will would have directed 5% of taxes collected from sports gambling in the state toward completion grants was aimed at improving student retention for low-income students.

More than 66,000 seniors from the class of 2024 have applied for Tennessee Promise.

The Tennessee Sports Wagering Council collected $83.6 million in sports gambling privilege tax in calendar year 2023.

Tennessee collected $82.1 million in privilege tax on mobile sports wagers last fiscal year with $78.8 million projected this fiscal year and projections of $82.7 million next fiscal year before reaching a projected $86.9 million in taxes the following fiscal year.

The bill would have diverted an estimated $4.2 million annually into the completion grant account.

The Sports Wagering Council first distributes licensing fees to the council’s operating and administrative expenses. Any remaining revenues must be sent to the treasurer and then to the Tennessee Promise scholarship endowment fund.

In fiscal year 2023, the council had $2.9 million in expenses and sent $7.6 million to the Tennessee Promise endowment fund.