Gov. Bill Haslam stopped in Memphis on Wednesday to sign a bill that allows eligible students to get their associate degree without paying tuition.
The program’s called "TN Reconnect" and is an extension of TN Promise. It allows eligible students to receive their associate degrees or certificates for free.
“It means any adult in Tennessee, regardless of age, regardless of income, regardless of education background, can go to college for free," said Haslam.
TN Reconnect is the first bill of its kind in the nation, and Southwest Tennessee Community College, University of Memphis and LeMoyne-Owen College will all take part in it.
“We support it 100 percent," said Dr. June Chinn-Jointer with LeMoyne Owen.
LeMoyne-Owen representatives said they’re excited to be one of the campuses welcoming these future students.
“It’s an opportunity to have those students who have stopped out for whatever reason, either work or families or different things that come into your life and you have to stop going to school for a minute, but this will give them the opportunity to come back and reconnect with their colleges and get their degrees,” said Chinn-Jointer.
Haslam said in Shelby County alone, there are 118,000 adults who have some college education but no degree.
“There are a lot of people in our state who feel stuck," he said.
He said if all those people were to take advantage of this program, it would lead to over three-fifths of our county population having degrees -- which would deter crime and boost our economy.
“We think it’s great for individuals, but it’s a competitive advantage for the state as well," said Haslam.
He said in light of this, there’s been more interest in companies moving to Tennessee than ever.
TN Reconnect is expected to go into effect Fall of 2018.