Tennessee's governor said on Monday night that by using lottery money the state should pay for two years of community or technical college for all high-school graduates.
Gov. William E. Haslam, a Republican, included the proposal in his State of the State address as a key part of his higher-education agenda and a means of increasing the percentage of state residents with a college degree.
The governor's plan, which he called the Tennessee Promise, would be paid for entirely with an endowment, seeded by reserves from the state's lottery, according to a news release from the governor's office.
"It is a promise that we have an ability to make," Governor Haslam said, according to a prepared text of his remarks. "Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless."
Several other states, such as Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina, use lottery money to provide college scholarships. But those programs are not aimed at channeling students into a two-year college and generally require high-school graduates to have a certain grade-point average to be eligible.
The Tennessee plan, however, would provide a guarantee that all of the state’s high-school graduates would have the opportunity to complete two years of job training or finish half of the requirements of a bachelor's degree with no tuition or fees.
"We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education after high school is a priority in the State of Tennessee," the governor said.
In addition to the Tennessee Promise proposal, the governor laid out several other education policies that he would like the state's General Assembly to approve this year. Those include an expansion of a program meant to reduce the need for remedial mathematics courses and a program to encourage high-school students to take dual-enrollment courses in which they can earn college credits.
He also called for expanding a program to help students predict the academic areas in which they will succeed and for a new data system to help colleges identify adults who could return to college and complete their degrees.