Gov. Haslam Joins Forces With Rhode Island’s Democratic Governor to Push Free College Tuition

“The Republican governor of Tennessee, a national leader in the push for tuition-free education, joined Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday to support her push to launch such an initiative in Rhode Island,” WPRI reported yesterday:

Raimondo’s proposal, Rhode Island’s Promise, is notably more expansive than Haslam’s – she wants to offer two tuition-free years at all three of the state’s public colleges, including its two four-year institutions. Her staff has conferred with Haslam’s aides as they developed their proposal.

“Quite honestly this is a good idea, and it’s a bipartisan issue,” she said.

On Thursday, Governor Haslam pushed his free college tuition ideas to Rhode Island business leaders the same way he has done with business leaders here in the Volunteer State:

On a conference call with Rhode Island business leaders Thursday morning, Haslam said he was spurred to create Tennessee Promise based on forecasts projecting a rapid rise in the share of jobs requiring a post-high-school degree. He said he feared the state’s work force would not be equipped to obtain good-paying work unless more residents furthered their educations.

“Everything Gina’s saying is right,” Haslam said. “She is not making any of that up. It is critical to recruiting the work force that we need, and of the things that we’ve done, I think long-term this might have as big an impact as anything we’ve done.”

Haslam said part of the policy rationale for Tennessee Promise was to make more students, parents and teachers realize the barriers to entry for further schooling were not as high as they thought.

“We came up with the idea that ‘free’ gets everyone’s attention,” he said. “We wanted to shock the system.” He cited “encouraging early data,” noting about 33,000 students have enrolled using the program so far and student loans have decreased by double-digits.

Haslam used the same kind of media messaging control techniques with his Democratic colleague in Rhode Island as he has here in Tennessee.

“Reporters were invited to listen in on the call with Haslam and Raimondo but could not ask questions, though business leaders on the line could do so,” WPRI reported.

Gov. Haslam’s evangelization of more big government programs to Democrats in blue states did not go over well with conservatives in Tennessee.

“What party is this guy in again?” a Capitol Hill insider tells The Tennessee Star.

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