Overall enrollment in Tennessee’s community colleges for the current fall semester is 88,352 students, an increase of 1,132 – or 1.3 percent -- over the official Fall 2017 enrollment count, according to preliminary data presented to the Tennessee Board of Regents Thursday.
The Board – which is holding its fall quarterly meeting at Dyersburg State Community College Thursday and Friday – governs the 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology comprising the College System of Tennessee. Enrollment numbers for the technical colleges, which operate on a different academic calendar, will be compiled and reported later in the fall.
The overall enrollment numbers reflect the third consecutive year of increase since enrollment began declining after the recession. Enrollment peaked during the recession as more people were either out of work or seeking to improve their skills to hold their jobs.
Significantly, adult enrollment – in this context, students at least 25 years old – in the community colleges is up by 17.4 percent over Fall 2017. A total of 24,592 adults are enrolled for classes at the 13 community colleges, compared to 20,950 last fall. It represents the first increase in adult enrollment since the recession, when thousands more adults were enrolled
The adult enrollment increase is primarily attributed to the newly expanded Tennessee Reconnect program, which went into effect this fall, providing tuition-free community college for independent adults who do not have any college degree or technical college diploma or certificate.
According to the preliminary figures presented to the Board’s Committee on Academic Policies, Programs and Student Success Thursday afternoon, there are 14,692 adults enrolled as Reconnect students in the community colleges. The majority of those students were already attending prior to this fall and signed up for the program for the current semester when it became available.
The Reconnect and adult enrollment numbers are different because Reconnect eligibility has no age requirement but does require students to be of “independent” status, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The adult enrollment numbers shown above are simply students aged 25 and up.
The Reconnect enrollment numbers are “surprisingly high,” said College System Executive Vice Chancellor Russ Deaton. More than 28,000 Reconnect applications were filed but Deaton said few expected the large number of actual enrollees during the first semester. He said the community colleges will reach out to applicants who did not enroll and encourage them to enroll later.
The Board’s meeting continues Friday at 9:30 a.m. CT, following a 9 a.m. presentation by Dyersburg State President Karen Bowyer and Youlanda Jones, President of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campuses at Covington, Ripley and Newbern. Dyersburg State is celebrating its 50th anniversary this academic year. Complete committee and Board agendas and materials are online at:https://www.tbr.edu/board/september-quarterly-board-meeting-0. The meeting is also livestreamed, and later archived, there.
Here are the preliminary overall enrollments for Fall 2018 by college:
Chattanooga State 8,268
Cleveland State 3,271
Columbia State 6,234
Dyersburg State 2,977
Jackson State 4,852
Motlow State 6,891
Nashville State 8,325
Northeast State 6,148
Pellissippi State 10,962
Roane State 5,726
Southwest TN 9,356
Volunteer State 9,178
Walters State 6,164
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.