Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Higher Education Administration
J. Patrick Biddix
Jimmy G. Cheek, Lisa T. Driscoll, Louis M. Rocconi
Policymakers in the United States are increasingly adopting statewide free college policies - often referred to as promise programs - to address the rising costs of attending college and increase postsecondary credential attainment in their states. Concurrently, policymakers and scholars encourage institutions to increase enrollment among historically underrepresented students, such as non-traditional adult students and students from racialized backgrounds, in order to increase postsecondary degrees or certificates in the coming years. Additionally, there is a growing movement in the United States to promote and support programs focused on postsecondary career and technical education. While there is a growing body of research exploring the effectiveness of free college programs as they are currently structured, there is no research exploring the effectiveness of free college programs available to adult students, nor is there research exploring how free college programs impact enrollment in postsecondary career and technical education.
This dissertation includes three articles exploring Tennessee’s two free college programs. The first two articles explore Tennessee Reconnect, a statewide policy which provides tuition-free college to adult students at all public and select private technical colleges, community colleges, and associate degree granting institutions in Tennessee. The first study qualitatively explores the lived experiences of students who used Tennessee Reconnect in its first two years. The second study deploys differences-in-differences to analyze the causal effect of Tennessee Reconnect on adult student enrollment in 2018 and 2019.
The third study included in this dissertation explores how Tennessee Promise - the original free college policy in the state that limits eligibility to high school graduates – impacted enrollment in postsecondary career and technical education programs in the state. In the third study, I deploy differences-in-differences to analyze the causal effect of Tennessee Promise on student participation in postsecondary career and technical education programs. Findings from these studies build on the growing body of scholarship on promise programs. Specifically, the studies included in this dissertation are the first to explore promise programs created for adult students and the effect of statewide promise programs on postsecondary career and technical education. Implications for policy, practice, and research are discussed in chapter 5.
Collom, Gresham D., "A Three Study Investigation of Promise Programs in Tennessee: Enrollment Responses, Experiences, and Unmet Needs. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2021.
Available for download on Wednesday, May 15, 2024
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