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New state scholarship offers promise for students’ future

By Marlana Ward
Beginning in 2015, Tennessee high school seniors can take advantage of a new program called Tennessee Promise.  With this new initiative, Tennessee hopes to encourage students to pursue degrees and training immediately after high school and beyond by not only offering funds but also mentors to help with the application process.
Tennessee Promise is intended to be used in addition to Free Application for Federal Student Aid funding and HOPE scholarships.  Funding for the program will come from the Tennessee Promise endowment as well as changes to the current HOPE award amounts.  Students that receive HOPE scholarships will now receive $3,000 toward attending community colleges while the amount for those freshmen attending four-year colleges will be dropping from $4,000 to $3,000.  Any Tennessee Promise funds awarded to a student will be paid directly to the school and may only be used toward tuition and school fees.
Johnson County High School counselor Priscilla Davis has already seen an increase in students considering college or technical education.  “ I do believe this program has already encouraged more people to think about going to college,” said Davis. “ While most of Johnson County seniors can already go to Northeast State Community College or the Tennessee College of Applied Technology for very little or free tuition, the Tennessee Promise initiative has changed the mindset of students and parents about going to college.  Many students will also take advantage of Northeast State Community College having a satellite campus right here in Johnson County.”
A major difference with the Tennessee Promise program is the utilization of mentors for every student that applies.  There are 25,000 students expected to apply for the program and every one will be given a mentor to help with the application process and to encourage the students to complete any necessary paperwork or community service requirements.
 Johnson County High School seniors are ahead of the game with materials given out during the first week of school and personnel making sure students are equipped to take advantage of the new program.  “Brittany Pleasant, Gear Up Coordinator, and myself have been calling students in to our office to assist students with the application process,” Counselor Davis shared.  “As of Friday afternoon 68 percent of all Johnson County seniors have applied to the Tennessee Promise.  We anticipate that 100 percent of Johnson County students will have completed the application this week which will be a month before the November 1 deadline.”
The following are the requirements for seniors wishing to apply for the Tennessee Promise according to the official website at TennesseePromise.gov:
Apply to the program by November 1, 2014.
File the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by February 15, 2015 at www.fafsa.gov. For families who have not yet filed taxes for the prior year, estimates can be used on the FAFSA and updated once taxes have been filed.
Attend mandatory meetings, held at local high schools, with partnering organization by March 1 and May 31, 2015.
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