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Tennessee Promise Evaluation

Tennessee Promise Evaluation

July 2020

Authors: Kristina Podesta and Lauren Spires

Executive Summary
Full Report

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) has completed an extensive evaluation of the Tennessee Promise Scholarship Program, which was created by the General Assembly in 2014 to give more high school graduates an opportunity to earn an associate degree or technical diploma.

State law requires OREA to evaluate the program on an ongoing basis. This report includes an analysis of the first cohort of Promise students (i.e., those who applied to the program during the 2014-15 school year), and a partial analysis of cohorts two and three.

Among OREA’s conclusions:

  • A larger percentage of recent high school graduates are attending college as a result of the program. Tennessee’s
    college-going rate increased from 58.4 percent to 64.3 percent in the first year of the program.
  • Tennessee Promise students are accumulating more college credits, staying enrolled longer, and earning postsecondary credentials at higher rates than their peers. Promise students at community colleges are more than twice as likely to earn a credential when compared to other recent high school graduates.
  • OREA identified challenges that make it difficult to participate and remain in the Promise program, however. The analysis also explores which student groups are more likely to become Promise students and earn a credential. OREA found that:
    • 70 percent of Promise applicants did not become eligible for the program because they failed to meet requirements,
    • 24 percent of high school seniors became Promise students, and
    • 75 percent of Promise students at community colleges did not earn a credential within the five semesters of Promise eligibility.
  •  While Tennessee Promise has increased the number of college attendees, meeting Tennessee’s Drive to 55 goal will likely not be possible without increasing the number of students who enter and remain in the program.      

OREA has included several policy options for the General Assembly in its evaluation. These include changes that could be made to increase the number of students who apply for scholarships, become Promise students, remain in the program, and earn a credential.