University of Tennessee joins list of U.S. schools offering free tuition

The University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville is one of three branches of the school that will be a part of a program offering free tuition to eligible students. Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Knoxville

March 16 (UPI) — The University of Tennessee said it will offer free tuition for lower-income students in a program that seeks to make higher education accessible to everyone — joining a growing list of U.S. campuses.

Interim President Randy Boyd announced the new program Thursday and said it covers potential students with a household income less than $50,000 per year.

“This isn’t a school just for the wealthy or the elite,” Boyd said in an address in Nashville. “This is a school for everyone.”

The “UT Promise” program will begin in September 2020 at state campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, officials said. It’s a variation of similar state programs that offer two years of free tuition at state community and vocational schools.

Students must attend an undergraduate program at one of the system’s campuses and be a recipient of a state Hope scholarship demonstrating academic achievement. The university said it would then cover all “last dollar” costs.

In 2017, New York became the first state to cover four years of tuition with its “Excelsior” program. It requires attendance at a City University of New York (CUNY) or State University of New York (SUNY), taking at least 30 credits per year of classes and a plan to reside in the state for as many years as a student participated in the program.

Free tuition programs are available in Tennessee, New York, Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Kentucky and Indiana. Lawmakers in eight others plan to offer similar opportunities.


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