The University of Tennessee is making a big promise: Starting in 2020, the system will offer free tuition to qualifying low-income students enrolling at its Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin campuses.

The program, called UT Promise, is the first of its kind among public universities in the South. UT Interim President Randy Boyd, a first-generation college graduate himself, is the architect of the program. Boyd joined On Second Thought from WUOT in Knoxville to explain why Tennessee is making this promise, how the university will fund it and how other Southern states could follow suit.

On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott speaks with Randy Boyd.

"I think our biggest challenge in our state is our culture: a culture of low expectations," Boyd says. "That culture is based on the assumption by many parents that ... they could never afford to send their children to school. We're hopeful that we can begin to let them know that if your child will work hard academically to earn the right to come in, money won't be a barrier."

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