Governor Haslam’s State-of-the-State address this week was full of the core ideas that he has built his administration around. One of those core ideas concerns how high school students transition into a local workforce that is demanding a greater degree of competency and aptitude.
In his speech, the governor outlined his intention to fund the Tennessee Achieves program. This is a program that has Haslam’s fingerprints all over it. He was a part of the original pilot in Knox County and has continued to encourage its use across the state. The program provides last dollar scholarships to community colleges for students who have a financial need or “gap”. For communities, like Bradley and Meigs County, who already offer this program, it means that graduates can enroll in a local community college without any out-of-pocket expense. The program is equitable and encouraging. But what has gone less noticed has been that these current Tennessee Achieves programs have been funded almost entirely through private dollars.
This is an excellent example of how local communities and private dollars can catalyze policy. It is an example of how local business and civic leaders see a need and take measures to meet that need, long before government steps up. By proposing the use of state funds to fill this gap, Haslam is building on that hard work and acknowledging the value local communities place on educating their youth for the workplace.
Working with this program, I have seen the access it can create. I have also seen many occasions where good-hearted people and businesses donate to make those things possible. If the state assumes the cost of the Tennessee Achieves program, I am sure that these donors will turn their support toward the next issue that needs to be addressed and I fully expect that they will again lead the way.
J. Adam Lowe
J. Adam Lowe is the executive director of the Cleveland State Community College Foundation and serves as the vice chairman of the Bradley County Commission. He is presently seeking the 22nd District seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.