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Tennessee scholarships, student loans and grants

Volunteers have dozens of opportunities to pay for college.

Graduates of Tennessee schools have some of the smallest debt loads around — it ranks 41st on the list of states with the most undergraduate student debt. Part of this is Tennessee’s push to provide students with scholarships and grants to help offset the rising cost of college. But unless you’re a resident with good grades, you may not qualify for many of Tennessee’s scholarship programs.

Top Tennessee college scholarships

Tennessee offers a variety of merit-based scholarships for students who’ve achieved well-rounded academic success.

Tennessee HOPE Scholarship

Amount

Scholarship amounts for students attending a four- or two-year school with on-campus housing vary depending on your year:

  • First-year students and sophomores: Up to $1,750 per semester
  • Juniors and seniors: Up to $2,250 per semester

If you’re attending a two-year college that doesn’t offer housing, you may qualify for up to $1,500 per semester.

Eligibility requirements

You need to meet the following criteria to qualify:

  • Tennessee resident for at least one year
  • Graduate of eligible high school
  • Enrolled in a Tennessee college or university within 16 months of graduating high school
  • ACT score of at least 21
  • SAT score of at least 1060
  • 3.0 GPA or higher

To renew your scholarship, you’ll need to be continuously enrolled at a postsecondary institution and meet the following GPA guidelines:

  • First-year students and sophomores: 2.75 GPA or higher
  • Juniors and seniors: 3.0 GPA or higher

The HOPE Scholarship is one of the main ways Tennessee students receive funding for college. It’s available to first-year students and can be used in conjunction with a number of other scholarships to reduce your total cost of attendance.


General Assembly Merit Scholarship

AmountUp to $1,500 per semester
Eligibility requirements

To qualify for this scholarship, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Graduate of a Tennessee public high school or eligible private school
  • Minimum GPA of 3.75
  • ACT score of at least 29
  • SAT score of at least 1350

Homeschool students and those graduating from dual enrollment or a Category IV, V or VI nonpublic school may have to meet additional requirements.

The General Assembly Merit Scholarship is designed to supplement the HOPE Scholarship. It’s available to first-year college students who have both an exceptional GPA and test scores.


Aspire Award

Amount

Award amounts vary depending on the type of school you’re attending:

  • Four-year institutions: Up to $750 per semester, including summer
  • Two-year institutions: Up to $250 per semester, including summer
Eligibility requirements

You need to meet the following criteria to qualify:

  • Tennessee resident for at least one year
  • Graduate of eligible high school
  • Enrolled in a Tennessee college or university within 16 months of graduating high school
  • ACT score of at least 21
  • SAT score of at least 1060
  • 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Adjusted gross family income under $36,000

The Aspire Award is a supplement to the HOPE Scholarship. It provides students from low-income families additional funding each semester, up to $750. To qualify and remain eligible, you’ll need to maintain the requirements outlined for the HOPE Scholarship.


Ned McWherter Scholars Program

Amount$6,000 per academic year — renewable for up to three years
Eligibility requirements

You need to meet the following criteria to qualify:

  • Tennessee resident for at least one year
  • Graduate of eligible high school
  • Enrolled in a Tennessee college or university within 16 months of graduating high school
  • ACT score of at least 21
  • SAT score of at least 1060
  • 3.0 GPA or higher

To renew your scholarship, you’ll need to be continuously enrolled at a postsecondary institution and meet the following GPA guidelines:

  • First-year students and sophomores: 2.75 GPA or higher
  • Juniors and seniors: 3.0 GPA or higher

The Ned McWherter Scholars Program offers academically competitive Tennessee high school graduates a chance to receive a large scholarship for each of their four years of university study. To apply, you need to complete an application — available in the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) portal — by February 15 each year.


The Tennessee Promise Scholarship

Tennessee stands out by offering residents a chance at tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in the state. The list of eligible schools encompasses 13 community colleges and 27 technical colleges as well as a variety of other institutions that offer associate degrees.

In addition to the scholarship, students also receive mentorship and community service opportunities to bolster their resume.

You’ll need to apply individually to the program to be accepted. If awarded the Tennessee Promise Scholarship, you must maintain a 2.0 GPA as well as meet other criteria, like completing eight hours of community service a semester, to continue receiving tuition-free education. Other restrictions may apply, so reach out to your mentor if you have any questions or concerns.

Top Tennessee grants for school

In addition to scholarships, Tennessee also funds grants for a variety of students.

Tennessee HOPE Access Grant

Amount

Grant amounts vary depending on the type of school you’re attending:

  • Four-year institutions: Up to $1,250 per semester, including summer
  • Two-year institutions: Up to $875 per semester, including summer
Eligibility requirements

You need to meet the following criteria to qualify for this grant:

  • Tennessee resident for at least one year
  • Graduate of eligible high school
  • Enrolled in a Tennessee university or college within 16 months of graduating high school
  • GPA between 2.75 and 2.99
  • ACT score between 18 and 20
  • SAT score between 940 and 1050
  • Adjusted gross family income under $36,000

The Tennessee HOPE Access Grant is designed to help students who may not qualify for the HOPE Scholarship. It has lower GPA and test score criteria, but it also requires that your parents make less than $36,000 per year. In addition, it can’t be renewed after 24 attempted semester hours.


Tennessee Student Assistance Award (TSAA)

Amount

Grant amounts vary depending on the type of school you’re attending:

  • Four-year or two-year private school: Up to $4,000
  • Four-year public school or career school: Up to $2,000
  • Two-year public school: Up to $1,300
  • Tennessee College of Applied Technology: Up to $1,000

Award amounts may change each year as determined by the TSAC Board of Directors.

Eligibility requirements

You need to meet the following criteria to qualify for this grant:

  • Enrolled at least half time at eligible Tennessee school, college or university
  • List the eligible institution as your first choice on the FAFSA
  • Expected family contribution (EFC) of $2,100 or less
  • Tennessee resident — if dependent, parents must also be Tennessee residents
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • No student loan defaults or owe refunds on previous grants
  • No previously earned bachelor’s degree

The TSAA grant is awarded to students from low-income families who are seeking postsecondary education. To apply, you just need to complete the FAFSA — though because funding is limited, you should submit as early as you can. The exact amount you receive is based on the institution you attend and other awards you’ve already received.


Tennessee Reconnect Grant

AmountGrant amounts vary based on other scholarships and grants you already received.
Eligibility requirements

To qualify for this grant, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Tennessee resident for at least one year
  • File the FAFSA as an independent student
  • Enrolled at least half time at eligible institution
  • Maintain at least a 2.0 GPA
  • Participate in a college success program, as determined by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • No previously earned associate or bachelor’s degree

The Tennessee Reconnect Grant is available to residents of Tennessee who haven’t earned an associate or bachelor’s degree and are considered independent students. Once you’ve successfully completed an associate degree or certificate — or five years have passed — your grant will end.


Dual Enrollment Grant

AmountUp to $1,000 for the first two courses. Total grant amount varies by number of courses and institution attended.
Eligibility requirements

You need to meet the following criteria to qualify for this grant:

  • Tennessee resident for at least one year prior to enrollment
  • High school junior or senior
  • Meet the admissions criteria for dual enrollment, as determined by your postsecondary institution
  • Attend eligible postsecondary institution
  • In compliance with federal drug-free rules
  • No defaults on Title IV or Tennessee educational loans
  • No refunds owed for federal or Tennessee student financial aid programs
  • Not incarcerated

To receive funding for more than one course, you need to meet the minimum HOPE Scholarship requirements as well.

The Tennessee Dual Enrollment Grant is available for high school juniors and seniors who are currently enrolled in an eligible postsecondary institution. Total award amount varies based on the number of courses you choose to take.

Unlike some other Tennessee grants, you have to apply through an application — which can be found on the TSAC website. Keep in mind that taking more than four dual enrollment courses will reduce the amount you can receive on the HOPE Scholarship.


Helping Heroes Grant

AmountStudents are awarded up to $1,000 per semester after completing 12 or more semester hours with no failing grade. For students who complete six to 11 hours, the award is reduced to $500 per semester.
Eligibility requirements

To qualify for this grant, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Honorably discharged veteran or a former or current member of a reserve or Tennessee National Guard unit who was called into active military service
  • Tennessee resident for at least one year prior to application for the grant
  • Recipient of one of the following: Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal or Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Enrolled in an eligible postsecondary institution
  • No previously earned bachelor’s degree
  • No defaults or refunds owed on federal or Tennessee educational loans or financial aid programs
  • In compliance with drug-free rules and laws
  • Not incarcerated

To qualify for renewal, you must:

  • Complete six or more semester hours with no failing grade
  • Attend an eligible postsecondary institution.

The Helping Heroes Grant was established to make postsecondary education more affordable for US veterans and current members of a reserve or Tennessee National Guard unit. Grant funds are awarded after successful completion of a semester, provided there are no failing grades. Grants can be renewed for eight semesters or until you earn a bachelor’s degree.


Do I qualify for Tennessee scholarships and grants if I go to school out of state?

Probably not. Most of the grants and scholarships offered by the state of Tennessee are meant to encourage residents to stay in state for college. In addition, applicants must be residents of Tennessee for at least one year to qualify — though there are some exceptions for students who live close to the Tennessee border.

Does Tennessee offer special student loans to residents?

No, Tennessee doesn’t offer any specialized student loan programs to residents. If you aren’t eligible for any of the scholarships or grants funded by the state of Tennessee, you may want to consider some of your other options below.

Other ways to pay for school in Tennessee

Although Tennessee has a slew of funding opportunities for students, it may not cover all of your cost of attendance. You might want to look into these other financing options as well.

Federal and college scholarships and grants

On top of state-funded programs, you may also qualify for federal grants and scholarships — especially if you have financial need.

In addition, the specific college or university you’re attending may offer its own scholarships and grants to students. Visit your school’s website to learn more — institutions like Vanderbilt have a handful of need- and merit-based programs available.

Federal and private student loans

When all else fails, student loans can bridge the gap when scholarships and grants fall short. Federal student loans typically come with the lowest rates and best repayment terms. But if that still isn’t enough, you may want to consider your private student loan options as well.

Compare private student loan providers

Explore your options by APR, minimum credit score, loan amount and loan term. Select the Get started button to start an application with a specific lender.

Name Product APR Min. Credit Score Loan amount Loan Term
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
4.092% to 8.609% with autopay
675
$1,000 - $200,000
7 to 20 years
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
CommonBond Private Student Loans
3.74% to 10.74%
700
$5,000 - $500,000
5 to 15 years
Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
Edvisors Private Student Loan Marketplace
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Quickly compare private lenders for your school and apply for the right student loan.
Credible Labs Inc. (Student Loan Platform)
Starting at 0.99% with autopay
Good to excellent credit
Starting at $1,000
5 to 20 years
Get prequalified rates from private lenders offering student loans with no origination or prepayment fees.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Explore scholarships, student loans and grants in other states

Compare your options across the country by selecting a state from the list.

Bottom line

Tennessee has dozens of scholarship and grant opportunities for students from every walk of life — provided that walk was done as a resident of Tennessee.

If you don’t qualify or need a little extra funding, check out our guide to paying for college for other financing options to consider.

Frequently asked questions

Will I need to fill out any special applications?

It depends on the grant or scholarship. Some simply ask you to fill out the FAFSA, while others may require additional applications that can be found on the TSAC student portal.

How long will I need to be a resident of Tennessee to qualify?

In general, the scholarship and grant programs require students to have been a resident of Tennessee for at least one year prior to applying. The specific date depends on the program, so check the TSAC scholarships or grants page for more detail.

Do all the scholarships and grants require the FAFSA?

For the most part, yes. Many funding opportunities — including all of the HOPE Scholarship options — are based on your FAFSA information.

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