UT Promise: Four free years of college tuition, mandatory fees

Rick Wagner • Oct 22, 2019 at 3:27 PM

KINGSPORT — Anybody want up to four free years of college tuition?

More than 50 Dobyns-Bennett High School students and others from four other Northeast Tennessee schools got visits offering that from University of Tennessee Interim President Randy Boyd on Monday as he touted the UT Promise scholarship. 

In a nutshell, the program launching this fall will pay tuition and mandatory fees for students who qualify academically and financially, the latter requiring a family income of less than $50,000 a year, to get four-year degrees at four UT campuses, including the flagship UT Knoxville. The goal is to award 2,000 scholarships for the fall semester, 1,300 to existing students and 700 to incoming freshmen. Transfers from other schools, existing UT students and non-traditional students are eligible.

“The most important thing is to go to a college where you feel welcome,” Boyd, a UT Knoxville graduate, told the group. Students also heard from UT student Kloee King from Oneida in Scott County, Tennessee. She is a UT Knoxville junior in marking and business analysis.

“Look for a place where you can make that big campus feel small,” she told the group, adding that college is 10 percent which school you attend and 90 percent what you make of it.

Boyd said 1,300 already have applied online at https://tennessee.edu/ut-promise/. Monday’s tour also included Tennessee High in Bristol, David Crockett and Daniel Boone high schools in Washington County and Unicoi County High.

D-B Principal Chris Hampton said D-B was chosen for the visit because of the number of D-B students who already have applied.


The deadlines include meeting the Tennessee Promise application deadline on Nov. 1, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by Dec. 1 and the UT Promise deadline on Dec. 15. At least a 21 on the ACT college entrance exam is required to get the HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Education) scholarship, which is required to get the UT Promise. The individual UT schools have different ACT requirements.

UT Promise is a “last-dollar” award, meaning that students must apply for all grants and scholarships. So it kicks in after other financial aid is received, such as Pell Grants, HOPE or other institutional scholarships. It is for UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and UT Health Science Center in Memphis. 

The system so far has raised $17.5 million in donations toward a goal of $100 million for an endowment to fund the program.

“We want everybody to have the same opportunity I had,” Boyd told the group, recalling that he was the first in his south Knoxville family to go to college and he worked his way through on weekend night shifts at an injection molding machine. He went on to found a business that failed but now owns a business that, among other things, makes the Invisible Fence for pets and sells it worldwide. 

Those accepted will get a mentor to help them enroll at UT, a second mentor once they are enrolled and a third mentor the last two years to help them graduate and transfer to the work force. In exchange, Boyd said, those in the program will be required to do one day of community service each semester.

More information about UT Promise is available online at https://tennessee.edu/ut-promise/.