Should I go to college?
Can I afford college?
Where should I go to college?
Those questions were at the center of the conversation when officials with the University of Tennessee System and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga visited four Chattanooga metropolitan area high schools on Wednesday, Sept. 6, as part of the UT Promise tour.
Bernie Savarese, vice president for academic affairs, research and student success for the UT system, UTC Chancellor Steven R. Angle and UT Knoxville student Courtney Brown—a first-generation college student and benefactor of a UT Promise scholarship—were the featured speakers for a day-long trek that made stops at East Ridge, Ooltewah, Bradley Central and Walker Valley high schools.
UT Promise is an undergraduate scholarship program guaranteeing free tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying Tennessee residents attending UT campuses at Chattanooga, Knoxville, Martin, Memphis and Pulaski.
Starting with the 2024-2025 academic year, UT Promise will increase the qualifying household income threshold to $75,000 a year based on adjusted gross income—up from $60,000 this year. In addition to adjustments in income level, UT Promise will also guarantee a minimum $500 award per semester for qualifying students.
These scholarship program enhancements represent additional steps to decrease students’ cost to attend a UT system school while incentivizing program engagement.
If a family makes less than the $75,000 adjusted gross income, a figure “that would capture two-thirds of Tennesseans,” Savarise told students, “you can go to any UT campus free of tuition and fees. Who likes free tuition? I love free tuition.”
UT Promise is a last-dollar scholarship program that guarantees free tuition and fees after other financial aid (such as Pell Grants, HOPE Scholarship or other institutional scholarships) has been applied for qualifying undergraduate Tennessee residents at UTC and other UT campuses.
Students must qualify for the Hope Scholarship and meet the academic qualifications for the institution to be eligible for UT Promise.
“I encourage you to go and visit each campus, see what it’s like—and something will hit,” Angle told students. “Engage, ask questions, go on a visit. Be an informed student and make that informed decision.”
Angle was joined on the tour by several members of the UTC admissions and recruiting team, including Interim Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Stacie Grisham, Assistant Director of Recruitment and Engagement Terrence Banks and Chattanooga-based admissions counselor Yancy Freeman Jr.
“If you’ve driven by our campus, you haven’t seen our campus, and I think that’s true for any place you’re going to consider going,” Angle said to students. “Get a feel, get a student-led tour. They’ll tell you the real scoop on the campus.”
UT Promise was initially launched in March 2019 by UT System President Randy Boyd for students with a household income of $50,000 or less. Since then, more than 2,200 students have enrolled at a UT campus tuition-free.
The program also matches eligible students with a volunteer mentor to help ensure success throughout a student’s college career. In return, scholarship recipients are asked to provide eight hours of community service each semester.
“UT Promise is more than a scholarship program; it’s a promise that we make to the young people of Tennessee,” Boyd said in a statement announcing the adjustment in qualifying income level. “It’s a promise that their dreams, ambitions and hard work will not be limited by financial barriers.
“Through UT Promise, we are investing in the next generation of leaders, innovators and change-makers who will shape the future of our state and beyond.”