Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has announced ‘Tennessee Reconnect + Complete,’ a Drive to 55 initiative focused on encouraging Tennessee adults with some college credit to return to college and complete their degree.
According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), approximately 940,000 Tennessee adults have enrolled in a post-secondary institution in the state and achieved some college credit but left before obtaining a degree or credential. Of those, nearly 110,000 Tennesseans have earned more than half the credit hours toward a degree during the past nine years, with 25,000 likely to have enough credits to graduate in only one additional semester.
“Between working full time, taking care of kids and paying the bills, going back to college can often seem like an unrealistic option for many Tennessee adults,” Haslam said. “We’ve challenged our universities, community and technical colleges to work even harder at finding new ways to assist busy adults, particularly those who left before graduating, to come back to school and achieve their dreams of getting a college degree or certificate.
“Data shows us that when adult students re-enter higher education they do very well, so it’s crucial that we find a way to help more of them succeed. It’s not only important to them but also to our employers and to our state.”
The Tennessee Reconnect + Complete initiative includes:
· Comprehensive training for college and university leaders on best practices to serve adult students
· A targeted advertising and outreach campaign to reconnect with interested adults and help them return to school
· A one-stop shop website, , to assist adult students in connecting with the right college, finding financial assistance and utilizing prior learning experience to receive college credit
“Taking that first step to find out how to reconnect and explore their options is often the hardest part for adults, so we are working to make it as easy and accessible as possible for folks to go back and complete their degrees,” Drive to 55 Executive Director Mike Krause said.
In 2013, Gov. Haslam launched the Drive to 55 to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55% by 2025. As a result, the Drive to 55 has:
· Established the Tennessee Promise program, the nation’s first scholarship and mentorship program that provides high school graduates last-dollar scholarships to attend two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees
· Reduced the number of college freshmen requiring remediation through the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program
· Provided free technical college for adults through TCAT Reconnect Grants
· Created Tennessee Re-connect + Complete to help more adults return to college to complete unfinished deg-rees
· Developed a more comprehensive state approach to serving student veterans
· Leveraged technology to enhance classroom instruction and college advising
Tennessee now leads the nation in FAFSA (federal student aid) completion, comprising 40% of the nation’s total growth in 2015, and the size of the state’s freshman class in higher education grew b y 10% in just one year.