Alexander: Tennessee High School Students Have “Best Opportunity in History” to Earn a College Degree

Says between TN Promise, new UBS college counseling initiative, and federal efforts to simplify financial aid – Tennessee students “may find the support they need to achieve their dreams”

Posted on September 18, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 18 –Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that Tennessee high school students have “the best opportunity in history” to earn a college degree.

“Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Promise makes community college free for every high school graduate in Tennessee, the president just took a first step to making it easier for any student to apply for financial aid by letting families use tax information they already have, and a private company, UBS, is going to connect high school guidance counselors with college admissions officers to help low-income students get into good colleges,” Alexander said.

“Today’s Tennessee high school students have the best opportunity in history to earn a college degree – and it will be the best investment they’ll ever make. Community college is free in Tennessee, and if they choose to go to a four-year college, they’ll earn on average an additional $1 million over their lifetimes.”

Alexander made his remarks at an event with Governor Bill Haslam where UBS announced a $2 million project called The TalentED Project, which will connect college admissions with high school guidance counselors to help them match talented students to colleges that are a good fit for them.

“With this new college counseling initiative, along with the work of the Tennessee Promise mentors, low-income and first-generation high school graduates may find the support they need to achieve their dreams,” Alexander said.

Alexander said his work as chairman of the Senate education committee to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and make it easier for students to apply for financial aid and repay student loans would make it “even easier for tomorrow’s low-income high school graduates to attend college and make the best investment of their lives.” 

Alexander has introduced a bipartisan proposal, called the FAST Act, to reduce the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – from 108 questions to two. Every student who enrolls in Tennessee Promise must first fill out the FAFSA.

President Obama announced this week that he would use his authority to enact one of the bill’s measures—which allows families filling out the FAFSA to use their tax information from two years ago. Today, the FAFSA requires information from the previous year before many families have even filed their taxes.

Alexander said: “The president of Southwest Tennessee Community College says he loses 1,500 students each semester because they’re too intimidated by the form. As many as 2 million students nationwide are discouraged from applying for aid because of the form — including as many 40,000 Tennesseans every year.”

“We’re going to end the intimidation of the form and help more students in Tennessee and across the country apply for financial aid. Here’s why that’s so important: Dr. Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown says, without major changes, the American economy will fall short of 5 million workers with post-secondary degrees by 2020. And in Tennessee, we’ve got lots of advanced manufacturers coming in and they need skilled workers.

“We know that college degrees are becoming more and more important – so it’s well-timed that they are more accessible than ever to Tennesseans, regardless of their income.

# # # 

For access to this release and the senator’s other statements, click here.

To stay up-to-date on the senator’s latest actions, follow him on Twitter and YouTube.