Nashville Mayor Karl Dean introduced a new program Monday that could change the lives of hundreds of Metro high school students.
"The new Nashville Achieves will provide any public high school senior the opportunity to attend a community college or technology center tuition free."
The program was initially started in Knox County by businessman and philanthropist Randy Boyd.
"If you go to community college you get that two year degree, you're going to make 400% more in your lifetime than if you just went to high school," Boyd said.
Currently 26 counties in Tennessee offer the Achieve program, paying tuition for more than 34,000 students.
Mayor Dean said the program not only helps students who might not otherwise be able to afford college tuition, but will also help the city of Nashville.
"The cities that will be the most competitive over the next 10 to 15 years are the cities that will attract and I think most importantly create the most college graduates," Dean said, adding, "We become more appealing to companies when they're choosing where to locate, our tax base is strengthened and our crime rate is decreased."
Governor Bill Haslam watched the program launch in Knox County while he was mayor of Knoxville, and told a packed auditorium at The Academy at Hickory Hollow High School that its success is impressive.
"Seventy percent of them, [students participating in Knox Achieves] come from families with incomes below $50,000. And they're getting their two year degree at twice the state-wide average," Mayor Haslam said.
He added, "This program is particularly meaningful. There are kids tonight that are going to watch the news and learn that they can go to college, community college for free. And they may not have been thinking they could go to college."
The tuition free scholarships require students to apply for all federal money available to them. Students must also complete eight hours of community service per semester.
Nashville Achieves is paid for through private donations. Metro-Nashville will kick in $700,000 over the next two years.
Boyd, who owns the Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team and Radio Systems Corporation donated the first $100,000 and is paying for staff members out of his own pocket.