Governor’s free community college proposal could help businesses with hiring

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Randy Griggs has been fixing cars for nearly two decades. But first, he had to go to school.

“I went to Southwest Tennessee Community College back in '99 to 2000," the auto repair technician said.

Now, Governor Bill Haslam wants to open up those opportunities to all adults; in his state of the state, he outlined a plan to provide free community college to any Tennessee adult.

“We need to reach the working mother that went to college but didn’t complete or the sons with sons of his own that like his dad never went to college but knows he needs to upgrade his skills," Haslam said.

The Governor's office clarified Tuesday that students would still have to fill out federal forms to apply for scholarships. If they didn’t get any, or enough to cover tuition, the Tennessee Lottery Education Account would pay for the rest.

Southwest Tennessee Community College President Dr. Tracy Hall said the school offered financial aid application assistance and this move could help reverse declining enrollment.

"For those of us in Memphis that know we have a very impoverished population, education is the key. It’s a great equalizer. So what the governor has proposed is very exciting for us and for Memphians," Hall said.

Joe Haynes agreed but for a different reason.

He said he doesn’t have enough qualified job applicants at the repair shop he owns, W.S. Haynes Tire and Service.

“There’s just not that many of them. We need more and training is the key,” he said.

If the plan passes through the legislature, Griggs said he might even go back to school to learn the technology they didn’t have when he first attended in 1999.