Study shows Tennessee Promise increases retention, graduation rates

Tennessee Promise, a last-dollar scholarship for high school seniors, has increased retention and graduation rates for full-time, first-time freshmen at Pellissippi State, according to a new study produced by the Postsecondary Education Research Center at the University of Tennessee in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Assessment and Planning at Pellissippi State.

“A Snapshot of Tennessee Promise: Pellissippi State Community College, 2015-2018,” the first in a series addressing Tennessee Promise at specific institutions of higher education, was published in February and unveiled in a press conference Tuesday at UT.

The study, which is available as a PDF at, has several key takeaways for Pellissippi State, says Data Analytics Technician Marisol Benitez Ramirez, who co-authored the study with Lisa G. Driscoll, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at UT.

  • Pellissippi State’s total enrollment steadily increased during the past four years in part due to participants in Tennessee Promise, which was signed into law by former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014.
  • Underrepresented minority student enrollment has increased among Tennessee Promise students, narrowing the gap of previous years’ enrollment to reflect the ethnicity and race of the region’s high school population.
  • In general, the implementation of Tennessee Promise has increased access to education in population subgroups.
  • Students receiving the Tennessee Promise scholarship increased attainment compared with non-Tennessee Promise students.

“That means that Tennessee Promise students attempted more credit hours, had a higher retention rate and had a higher graduation rate when compared with non-Tennessee Promise students,” Benitez explained.

Full-time, first-time freshmen who started Pellissippi State in fall 2014, before Tennessee Promise was enacted, had a three-year graduation rate of 23.5 percent, while those who started in fall 2015 had a three-year graduation rate of 30.1 percent.

“The study shows that Tennessee Promise both increases accessibility to college and provides incentive for more students to stay the course. At Pellissippi State we are happy to play a role in helping a larger group of Tennesseans earn a post-secondary credential,” said Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathryn Byrd.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.