Dean: Free community college for all

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean (left) and Gov. Bill Haslam (right) kicked off the week at Nashville State’s southeast campus launching a program aimed at giving every public school student a free ride to community college or technology center.

Here are three things to take away:

1.) Under the program — named nashvilleAchieves — every single high school student who can’t afford to pay for college can get the tab picked up, although the program is focused on first-generation, low-income students. The idea is an extension of the tnAchieves program now live in 26 other counties. The move is an attempt to move the needle on both Dean’s and Haslam’s goals to increase college graduation rates. Fewer than a third of Tennessee adults have a post-secondary degree, according to Haslam. And in Davidson County, some 34 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and just over 50 percent have at least an Associate’s Degree, according to the mayor’s office.

2.) The program is a public-private partnership and Mayor Karl Dean is calling on the business community and philanthropists to pitch in. Supporters have raised some $1 million to launch the program and Dean said the city would plug in $750,000 over the next two years. The price tag is estimated at $745,000 for year one, and $1.25 million for year two. Dean is asking for donations to the effort, but is pushing hard for metro employees and the business community to volunteer as mentors to high school seniors to keep students on track.

3.) This program has the fingerprints of Randy Boyd all over it. Boyd is a Knoxville businessman behind Radio Systems, a company headquartered in Knoxville that produces technology-based pet products including the Invisible Fence. Boyd founded knoxAchieves in 2008 and helped launch tnAchieves a year later. Haslam tapped him in January to work as a special advisor for higher education, an unpaid position. According to the mayor’s office, Boyd is covering the overhead program costs privately.