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Haslam wants free tuition for high school seniors - John Dunn

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Governor Haslam is making a bold promise. He is pledging to provide graduating seniors with free tuition to community colleges and applied technical schools. It is called the Tennessee Promise, and it is being made during a difficult budget year.

It is being called visionary, innovative, and bold. Governor Haslam used his 2014 state of the state address to unveil what he calls the Tennessee Promise. The Governor hopes to provide free tuition to Tennessee community colleges or applied technical schools to all graduating high school seniors. "Net cost to the state, zero. Its impact on our future, priceless," says Gov. Haslam.

It is all part of the Governor's goal to have 55% of Tennesseans with college degrees or certificates by the year 2025. "We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee," says Gov. Haslam.

The proposal comes at a time when Tennessee is cutting its budget. 660 state jobs will be lost, and many state departments will do more with less. The Governor hopes to use state lottery reserve money to pay for the free tuition plan. For now, the proposal has bipartisan support. "I have long been a proponent of using our lotto reserves for something just exactly like this, so I personally will be supportive of that measure. I think it is a step forward," says Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, (D) Ripley.

The Governor hopes Tennessee will become the only state in the country to offer high school graduates two years of free community college. "It is a promise that will make a real difference for generations of Tennesseans. And it is a promise that we have the ability to make," says Gov. Haslam.

The Governor dedicated more than half of his remarks to education. He is also proposing a 1% pay raise for state employees, and a 2% pay raise for teachers.

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