The Great Equalizer

Randy Boyd meets with high school students during the UT Promise fall 2019 tour

Education is the great equalizer. It begins with a strong pre-kindergarten through 12th grade foundation. But we must build on that.

When the Morrill Act was established back in 1862, it was created to educate individuals in practical areas such as agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts and the like. The goal was to make education available and accessible to all, regardless of economic earnings or social status. Having one of two land-grant institutions in the state, we take this mission seriously.

Fast forward to today—while 46 percent of our students will graduate from one of our schools with zero debt, which is better than most institutions, we still realize that the cost to attend one of our universities may seem out of reach for the middle- and working-class.

I have been traveling the state to talk about UT Promise, our innovative, free tuition program. In one month, I visited 14 high schools and traveled 1,573 miles to tell 4,500 students how they can obtain their dream of a college degree.

UT Promise is a last-dollar scholarship program for qualifying Tennessee undergraduate students with a family household income of under $50,000. It guarantees free tuition and mandatory fees after other financial aid is received at UT Knoxville, UT
Chattanooga, UT Martin and UT Health Science Center. Students must qualify for the Tennessee Hope Scholarship and meet the academic qualifications for the institution to be eligible for this new scholarship. To help ensure success, students will be matched with volunteer mentors and will complete eight volunteer service hours each semester.

While the deadline has passed for high school students to apply, there is still important work to do. The University of Tennessee Foundation launched its UT Promise Endowment campaign last fall, and $17.5 million has been raised toward the $100 million goal. An additional $4.025 million will soon be added with the sale of the Eugenia Williams home. This endowment will allow us to keep our promise for years to come.

I invite you to join us in helping ease the financial burden for the state’s middle- and working-class families. Education is the great equalizer and is the route to change lives, which then change communities and the state.


Randy Boyd, Knoxville ’79


For more information on how you can get involved, please visit