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UT’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research has received supplemental funding from the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research that will help with research centered around Tennessee Promise, the state’s initiative to provide a tuition-free education at a community or technical college in Tennessee.

Celeste CarruthersThe Upjohn Institute is at the forefront of studying the Promise model, beginning with rigorous research on the impact of the Kalamazoo, Michigan, Promise. As other locales have implemented place-based scholarships, the institute has worked to connect researchers across communities, develop a framework for program comparisons, and generate collective knowledge about impact.

The University of Arkansas and the University of Pittsburgh will also receive funds from the Upjohn Institute as part of the $430,000 grant.

“Until now, analyses of Promise scholarships have focused on how they affect college going and completion. We are finally at the point where we can ask what effect these programs have after college,” said Michelle Miller-Adams, the Upjohn Institute’s project co-director.

“Best of all, this grant allows us to look at outcomes across multiple communities. We are excited to be working with Dr. [Celeste] Carruthers to explore how Promise programs affect employment and income for scholarship recipients in Tennessee.”

Carruthers, the Ed Boling Faculty Research Fellow and an associate professor with the Boyd Center and the Department of Economics, will use the funds to supplement research she is doing in partnership with Vanderbilt University on the state’s “Drive to 55” campaign. The campaign, created in 2013 as an effort to have 55 percent of working-age Tennesseans hold a postsecondary credential by 2025, includes Tennessee Promise.

“Tennessee has this forerunning model of free community college, and the nation is watching to see how it plays out and how it contributes to the state’s plan to build a more skilled workforce,” Carruthers said. “I am excited to be working on these questions and thrilled to be plugged in to Upjohn’s network of Promise researchers.”

The Boyd Center is housed within UT’s Haslam College of Business.


Lydia McCoy (865-974-6086,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,