Jake - Tennessee Promise

Jake Childs grew up in Kingston, Tennessee, a town of 5,900 merely two hours away from booming Nashville. He always knew he was going to attend college but was nervous about how he would afford it. He also wrestled with insecurities around how he could be academically successful given the perception that college was more challenging than high school. Though he was a good student, he felt that he wasn’t prepared to major in engineering like some of his peers who were taking advanced placement classes in calculus, chemistry and physics.

When his guidance counselors shared the Tennessee Promise Program opportunity with him, he went for it!  Jake applied, was accepted, and enrolled in Roan State Community College in Harriman, Tennessee.

The program ended up being a perfect fit for Jake. He could focus on academics without worrying about how he was going to pay for school. He didn’t have to work a side job. He ended up graduating with a 4.0.

Community college was also a great experience due to the confidence boost. With small classes, individualized learning, and helpful tutors, he was able to do well academically.   

The free tuition meant he didn’t have to get a part-time job. This allowed him to participate in extracurricular activities like the Campus Activities Board and Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year colleges. In both organizations, students engaged in community service learning and helped organize student events.

Jake graduated from Roan State Community College in 2015 with an Associate’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. In 2017, he received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has chosen to pursue a PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee where he will perform research in soft robotics. He was awarded an endowed fellowship from the university, the J. Wallace and Katie Dean Graduate Fellowship which provides a tuition waiver and a stipend.

“Community college was a game changer for me. Kids in high school didn’t think they were smart enough or had enough money for college. Barriers like these were eliminated through the Tennessee Promise Program,” says Jake.

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The Campaign for Free College Tuition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established in the State of Washington in 2014 to educate parents, students, the higher education community, policy makers and taxpayers about efforts needed to fundamentally reform our nation’s system for financing higher education. This website and CFCT’s educational outreach activities are made possible through generous individual and foundation support.