It Starts with a Square

Reconnect To Your Degree

BY Regan Hewitt

A last-dollar scholarship program is gaining momentum in our community and is a win-win for Tennessee taxpayers and students. The statewide scholarship program, Tennessee Reconnect, is transforming the lives of adult students without an Associate or Bachelor’s degree that are eager to return to higher education to gain new skills, advance in the workplace, and fulfill their life-long dreams of completing a degree or credential tuition-free. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer tuition-free community or technical college to adults. According to former Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 Alliance Campaign, at least half the jobs in Tennessee will require postsecondary education by 2025. 

According to former Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 Alliance Campaign, at least half the jobs in Tennessee will require postsecondary education by 2025.

For ‘Tennessee Reconnectors’ like Carol Madison, Tennessee Reconnect was the opportunity she needed to advance in the workplace as a billing clerk in her company’s legal department. “I had to obtain a degree to advance in my career,” said Madison. “My company did support me financially through a tuition reimbursement program, but I could not wait for reimbursement at the end of each semester.” Tennessee Reconnect changed that waiting period giving Madison the financial stability upfront to continue her studies at Southwest Tennessee Community College, helping Madison pursue an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies.

Celeste Riley’s story is all too familiar to adult learners with family responsibilities. After raising seven children, Riley went back to work for a job with little compensation. “I worked my tail off and only got a ten cents raise,” said Riley. After 22 years away from school, Riley enrolled and applied for Tennessee Reconnect. “I was running out of funds and would not have been able to complete my education without Tennessee Reconnect.” Applying for the program enabled Riley to graduate in spring with an Associate of Applied Science in English as a Second Language and will transfer in fall to the U of M to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and plans to earn a doctorate.

Since February 2018, nearly 15,000 adults statewide have enrolled in Tennessee Reconnect. For the 2018-2019 academic year, Southwest enrolled 1,548 Tennessee Reconnect students for fall semester and 1,416 students for spring semester.

Tennessee Reconnect numbers indicate the success of the adult program in removing financial barriers for returning students and making college more accessible. It’s given Tennesseans like Madison and Riley a chance to better their lives and their families. It’s given Tennessee the opportunity to invest in a workforce that will benefit its economic future.

By: Diana Fedinec, Director of Public Relations and Media Southwest Tennessee Community College 

May/June 2020 Tour Collierville Magazine