Need to go back to school? This state is making college free for all adults

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Need to go back to school? This state is making college free for all adults
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It’s no secret that we have a skills gap in the United States. Millions of high-paying jobs go unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the right training.

Well, one state is stepping up to do its part to end this problem.

Read more: 20 best job markets for new college graduates

Tennessee’s governor rides to the rescue

Back in 2014, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam came up with a plan called Tennessee Promise that allowed all high school graduates in the state to attend two-year community colleges or technical schools for free.

Now there’s a bill on the governor’s desk that would expand the program to include all adult residents of the state. Not just graduating seniors.

That would make Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer community college free to all citizens – both high school grads and adults!

Listen: Clark talks about the Tennessee plan on The Clark Howard Show Podcast

“If we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs, and there is no smarter investment than increasing access to high-quality education,” Haslam said in a statement.

The planned broadening of the program comes at no cost to taxpayers; it will be funded by the state lottery.

Haslam is expected to sign the expansion bill into law.

When that happens, all adults in Tennessee will be able to pursue degrees at community colleges beginning in the fall semester of 2018. They’ll get to say goodbye to worries about the tuition and fees traditionally associated with higher education.

CNN Money reports the following eligibility requirements will apply:

  • Must be a state resident for one full year before applying
  • Must maintain a 2.0 GPA
  • Must enroll as a part-time student
  • Must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

What can you do if you’re not a resident?

Getting a college degree doesn’t have to break the bank. There are other ways for you to cut the cost of education in half and still get the degree you want.

Money expert Clark Howard has long talked about cutting college costs by doing your first two years at a community college and then transferring to a four-year school that you plan to graduate from.

American Honors

There’s a new program called AmericanHonors.org that takes Clark’s idea a step further. This program will guarantee your admission to big name schools if you do the required coursework and maintain your grade point average at several leading community colleges across the country.

Schools like American University, Cornell, Duke, NJIT, NYU and Purdue have partnered with American Honors to extend this offer to students.

The cost to go the American Honors route starts at around $3,000 a semester in tuition and fees at the two-year schools. While that is a bit more than community college usually is, having that added layer of a big name school guaranteeing your admission down the road is nice.

Academic Common Market

If there’s a specialized field you want to study, did you know it’s possible to study at an out-of-state college and still pay in-state tuition rates?

It’s called the Academic Common Market. It’s a consortium of more than a dozen states — Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Each of those states has reciprocity with each other. For example, a student from Georgia could study at a Texas state school and still pay in-state tuition.

Give it a look and see if it meets your needs!

Read more: 5 ways student loans can limit your life choices

New app can help you pay down your student loan debt

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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