Nashville is launching a new scholarship to make higher education completely free for some students, Nashville Public Radio says.
Nashville GRAD — or Getting Results by Advancing Degrees is one of the first local government efforts in the nation to target non-tuition expenses, and it will help students at two colleges in Nashville beginning fall 2019.
Those colleges are Nashville State Community College (NSCC) and TCAT-Nashville, NewsChannel 5 said.
The program will work with Tennessee Promise for graduating high school seniors and Tennessee Reconnect for adults, both of which waive tuition for community and technical schools, NPR said.
A recent study by the Tennessee nonprofit Complete Tennessee found even though tuition is covered through these programs, many low-income students still struggle to complete their degrees because they can’t afford textbooks, transportation and certifications, says Indira Dammu, education policy advisor for Nashville Mayor David Briley.
Reports conflict on when the program will begin.
NewsChannel 5 said Fall 2019. The mayor’s office says Spring 2019.
The program will be handled through a fund that will include an annual commitment from Metro Government and, at full implementation, will serve more than 3,000 students annually, NewsChannel 5 said. Briley committed to including up to $1 million in Metro’s FY2019-2020 budget and up to $2.5 million annually after that.
Dammu says the city chose these schools to consider low-income and diverse students.
The city hopes Nashville GRAD will increase the number of graduates from Nashville State to at least 50 percent over three years and raise TCAT industry certifications to 66 percent by 2023.
Metro Nashville also announced a need for financial commitments from local business partners who believe in the importance of developing Nashville’s workforce and closing the city’s equity gaps. “I am counting on our partners in the business community to help us see this through, as well,” Briley said.
Metro Nashville is promising to buy textbooks for college students who are already receiving free tuition while other budget needs go unmet.
Briley caught flack earlier this year for his 2019 budget priorities.
At-large Metro Council Member Erica Gilmore, who ran against Briley in the special mayoral election, blasted the budget as a “Promises Made, Promises Broken Budget.” She took issue with lower-than-requested funding to Metro Public Schools and the budget’s failure to provide promised cost-of-living increases to city workers.
Briley turned around and gave merit raises to 20 members of his own staff.
Even with Nashville adding a skyfull of skyscrapers, it faced a $34 million revenue shortfall this year. Most of the new money has gone to debt service to pay for pretty and shiny projects like the Sounds baseball stadium and the convention center, plus more conventional needs like school improvements.
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