Policy Series Reports

Drive to 55: Mission: Workforce Ready

The Goal of Drive to 55 (D55) is to bring the state’s percentage of Tennesseans with a college degree or certification to 55 percent by 2025.  This includes increasing the number of two-year and four-year degrees as well as technical certifications in state-identified important fields such as welding and mechatronics. Through governor and state legislative cooperation, the state has passed the Tennessee Promise, Tennessee LEAP, and Tennessee Reconnect, which focus on postsecondary affordability, workforce alignment, and disconnected workers, respectively.  Drive to 55 uses multiple means to address the goal, including increasing dual enrollment, expanding mentoring, increasing financial aid opportunities to keep students engaged, and bringing Tennesseans back into the workforce.

Tennessee Promise
is a last-dollar scholarship and mentoring program that provides tuition and fees not covered by Pell Grants, the Hope scholarship, or Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA). It also provides students with an individual mentor throughout their time in the program.  Students are required to complete 8 hours of community service per semester, complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), and maintain a 2.0 GPA which is considered satisfactory academic progress. The approximate annual cost of the Promise is $34 million, which will be paid for through the $300 million Tennessee Promise Endowment, funded through a transfer from Tennessee Lottery reserves.  The scholarships can be applied at any of the state’s 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs), 13 community colleges, or any state independent or 4-year public university offering an associate’s degree.

Tennessee LEAP
(Labor Education Alignment Program), established by the legislature in 2013, came as a result of calls from across the state for greater communication between education and industry in order to proactively align the supply of graduates to future industry needs. LEAP has two main components, a $10 million Skills Gap competition and the creation of a Workforce Subcabinet led by a new Director of Workforce Alignment to review applications for the Skills Gap competition.  In order to apply for the Skills Gap grants, a group must create a D55 regional alignment group that will focus on existing best practices and forecasting future regional workforce needs to fund program development or supply necessary equipment.

Program Contact
Anne Buckle
Research Assistant
Tennessee Promise
Office of the Governor
Phone: (615) 218-0145
Email: Anne.Buckle@tn.gov

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