Tennessee Reconnect Communities Launch across Tennessee

March has marked the launch of local community-based efforts to encourage adults to return to college to complete a degree or certificate. The Tennessee Reconnect Communities (TRCs) are locally-based collaboratives focused on empowering adults to complete a postsecondary degree or credential. Each TRC is comprised of local leaders from the community, employers, and higher education institutions, each focused on a localized plan to engage adults in the area. The TRCs provide adults with free advising, career counseling, support, and a personalized path to and through college.

The TRC model includes close collaboration with local higher education institutions. The locally-based efforts complement the services colleges and universities provide to students while saving campus staff time and resources. The TRC assists students with the enrollment process, in concert with campus staff, so that students can navigate steps such as gathering transcripts, filling out the FAFSA, and understanding basic financial aid options.

Currently, three TRCs serve three localized areas across the state: Middle Tennessee, Southwest Tennessee, and the Upper Cumberland. Established in 2015 by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) in partnership with The Graduate! Network, the TRCs receive technical assistance and funding from Lumina Foundation and the State of Tennessee. The current three communities were selected through a competitive proposal process and the funded communities received extensive training throughout the fall of 2015. Earlier this spring, the TRCs began to launch their services in their respective local communities.

In early March, the Southwest Tennessee Reconnect Community planned a 13-county bus tour. A mobile TRC resource center visited each of the counties in the region and introduced adults to the resources offered through the TRC and Tennessee Reconnect. The Upper Cumberland Reconnect Community held events at Warren County High School in McMinnville, a library in Crossville, and the Cookeville Higher Education Campus. Each event featured speakers from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, and other experts on accessing higher education in Tennessee. The Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community held their first launch event alongside admissions representatives from higher education institutions at Stones River Mall in Murfreesboro, and plans to hold similar events in early April in Nashville, Clarksville, Hendersonville, and Spring Hill.

The TRCs’ work of engaging adults to return to college is dependent on institutions.  At each event, representatives from local higher education institutions played a role. As a result of the collaborative efforts around the TRC launches, a total of 84 adults signed up to receive further services across all three communities. More than twice that number came to the events in order to meet institutional representatives, attended seminars on returning to college, or talk to a community advisor.

THEC is currently in the process of expanding the TRCs into five new communities this fall. The new TRCs are being chosen through a competitive proposal process and expect to be announced this summer, with the communities launched in the fall. Representatives from each new TRC will go through an intensive training with THEC and The Graduate! Network, as well as working with current programs to share best practices and common resources.

The TRC initiative is based on The Graduate! Network’s proven model for improving outcomes for adult learners. TGN is a non-profit organization, based out of Philadelphia, whose work uses collective impact strategies to bring together entities from different sectors and innovate ways to increase college attainment among adults. Using this model, the TRCs focus on locally-based effort to provide services to adults that are unique to each community’s needs and characteristics.

For questions about Tennessee Reconnect or the Tennessee Reconnect Community effort, please contact Jessica Gibson at jessica.gibson@tn.gov or 615-741-7572.

Find out more information on each of the TRCs:

Southwest Tennessee Reconnect Community

Cedric Deadmon, Director
(731) 668-6448

Counties served:
Chester, Decatur, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, McNairy, Carroll, Crockett, Gibson, Tipton, Wayne

Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community

Laura Ward, Director
(615) 743-3046

Counties served:
Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson


Upper Cumberland Reconnect Community

Cindy Taylor, Director
(931) 261-4181

Counties served:
Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Van Buren, Warren, White


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