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Private loans and scholarships are not affected by Tennessee Promise

By: Paula Walter
Assistant Editor

It’s back to school time, not only for elementary, middle and high school students, but also for those recent high school graduates furthering their education. This year, students enrolled in community or technical college in Tennessee can take advantage of the Tennessee Promise, a scholarship program designed to increase the number of students graduating from high school to go onto higher learning. More than 38,000 are eligible to take part in this program and receive free tuition for two years. It’s been estimated that approximately 18,000 will go onto higher learning with the help of this initiative.
The Tennessee Promise is referred to as a last dollar scholarship. It will cover tuition and fees for two years that are not covered by other scholarships the student may have, such as a Pell Grant, the Hope Scholarship or any other tuition assistance from the state.
“If you have a Pell Grant or Hope Scholarship, that is applied first,” said Johnson County High School Guidance Counselor, Priscilla Davis. “If tuition is still owed, then the Tennessee Promise kicks in.”
As a part of the initiative, students must complete eight hours of community service each semester.
According to Wesley Armstrong, Director of Financial Assistance at Northeast State Community College, the cost to attend the college is approximately $4,000 per year, including fees that may be associated with classes requiring laboratory costs. If a student and their family have taken out a private loan with a private lending company such as Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo or Eastman Credit, these monies are not applied to tuition. These funds, along with monies from private scholarships, including ones given out by local communities to their graduating seniors, can be used by the student to help offset the cost of books, gas and any other living expenses.
The Tennessee Promise begins this year with the graduating class of 2015 and can also be used to attend those four-year state and private universities that offer an associate’s degree. There are 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology in the state.