For the last few weeks, University of Tennessee System President Randy Boyd has been crisscrossing the state to increase awareness of UT Promise, an undergraduate scholarship program guaranteeing free tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying Tennessee residents attending UT campuses in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Martin, Memphis and Pulaski.
The tour visited the Chattanooga metropolitan area on Tuesday, Sept. 13, including stops at Cleveland High School and Central High in Harrison.
The innovative UT Promise scholarship covers costs after all other financial aid is applied—such as Pell grants, the HOPE Scholarship or institutional scholarships—for students who qualify for HOPE and who come from families with household income of less than $60,000 a year.
The program requires participating students to complete volunteer service and meet with a volunteer mentor each semester.
Eligible students include graduating high school seniors, transfer students, nontraditional students and current students who never previously applied to UT Promise.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Steven R. Angle joined Boyd in meeting with high school juniors and seniors and talking about the availability of UT Promise.
Several hundred Cleveland High School students crowded the school gymnasium for the 8 a.m. event, where Boyd and Angle also tossed UT Promise T-shirts into the stands.
“Should you go to college? Boyd asked the students. “Many of you have relatives that have, and that’s what is expected of you, but for others like me, nobody in my family had gone. I had a desire to.”
Boyd explained that going straight from high school into the workforce might sound like a good move in the short term, “but if you get a four-year degree, you’ll make on average $1.6 million more over your career.
“Financially, it just makes sense,” he said.
“We have programs to get our students involved and engaged, to solve problems, to do research with faculty,” said Angle, who was joined by and introduced UTC’s mascot Scrappy. “There’s always excitement and the campus is small enough where you get to know faculty.
“With UT Promise, it’s affordable for students to get an education.”
The UT System and UTC personnel caravan then made the 20-plus mile jaunt to Central High School for a 9:15 assembly.
At Central High School, Boyd and Angle were joined by Tennessee Sen. Bo Watson, Tennessee Rep. Greg Martin and Jimmy Rodgers of the Summers, Rufolo and Rodgers law firm in Chattanooga.
The event included announcing that Rodgers’ law firm is making a $1.2-million gift to the UT Promise Endowment to support graduates from 12 Chattanooga-area high schools attending an undergraduate UT system campus. Eligible students will be graduates of Red Bank High School, The Howard School, Tyner Academy, Central High School, Lookout Valley High School, East Ridge High School, Sale Creek High School, Ooltewah High School, Brainerd High School, East Hamilton High School and Hixson High School.
“This is our way of giving back to the community,” said Rodgers, who noted that several of his law firm colleagues have UT Knoxville and/or UTC ties.
Angle told students about the success of 2017 Central High School graduate McClendon Curtis, a UTC offensive lineman and football team co-captain.
“He’s an outstanding young man and someone we’re all proud of,” Angle said. “He has a chance of being someone playing football on Sundays.”
This year, more than 1,380 new students are attending a UT institution tuition-free thanks to the UT Promise program. The number is the largest since the program’s inception, and nearly 600 of those attend UTC.
UT Promise was introduced in 2019 as a last-dollar scholarship program for eligible students on any UT campus. At that time, qualifying students who met academic admission requirements came from households with an annual family income of less than $50,000. In fall 2021, the UT System expanded access to UT Promise by taking the qualifying household income level for recipients from $50,000 to $60,000.
For more about the Summer, Rufolo and Rodgers gift to the UT Promise Endowment, click here for the press release.