SMYRNA, Tenn. — A plan to offer free tuition to all Tennessee high school graduates has some higher-education institutions looking to hire more faculty.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced the initiative as a way to help boost the number of Tennesseans with two- or four-year degrees to 55 percent, up from 33 percent now.
The Daily News Journal reports that Motlow State Community College plans an open house at its Smyrna campus Tuesday. The school is looking for instructors in almost 30 areas including math and music.
Across the state, about 56,000 of Tennessee’s roughly 62,000 high school seniors have applied for free tuition, but officials have said they don’t expect that many to participate in the program.
Cheryl Hyland, who directs Motlow’s Smyrna campus, says the school wants to be prepared.
“Because there is a series of steps involved, I don’t think anybody knows what that final number will be,” she said.
In Rutherford County, 2,523 seniors applied, which is more than twice the 1,204 that state officials originally predicted.
Last fall, there were 92 full-time and 175 part-time instructors employed at the college. Hyland said the Smyrna campus has 21 full-time instructors and about 60 adjuncts.
“There’s always a high need in the core subject areas, math, science, English, history, the classes students have to have in order to earn a degree,” Hyland said.
Department chairs will attend the event to meet potential candidates and talk about the needs in their areas.
Beth Duffield, vice president of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce’s workforce development efforts, had helped recruit mentors for the initiative.
“Based on the history tnAchieves has provided, only about half of those registered will take advantage of the scholarship dollars. Even so, that would be a big number for Rutherford County,” she said.
The Tennessee Promise program is considered a “last-dollar scholarship,” which means it will cover up to $4,000 tuition and fees not covered by other financial aid for five consecutive semesters at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institution. It does not pay for books, housing or transportation.