Tennessee’s community colleges launch fall semester with focus on health & safety

Tennessee's community colleges welcome students for Fall semester

Tennessee’s community colleges are welcoming students back for Fall semester, in a variety of class modalities and with a focus on keeping them healthy and safe as they continue their studies.

Eleven of the 13 community colleges start fall classes Monday, Aug. 24.  Northeast State Community College began classes Aug. 17 and Roane State Community College launched Aug. 19.

The 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology start their Fall terms Sept. 1.

The community and technical colleges comprising the College System of Tennessee spent the summer preparing for a safe return to classes, including teleconferences led by the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Gov. Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group.

The colleges are following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health. Classes are delivered in virtual (live scheduled classes through interactive video conferencing), online (anytime over the internet), and hybrid (combination of virtual, online and in person) formats, and in person when necessary for labs, clinicals and other strongly hands-on programs, with social distancing requirements in place.

Masks and wellness checks are required each day students are on campus. The colleges have adopted pledges in which members of the campus community commit to take precautions every day to keep the entire college family safe -- by wearing masks or shields, practicing social distancing, completing wellness screenings, staying home if they feel sick, and self-reporting a COVID-19 positive test.

“Our priority across our system has been the health and safety of our students as they pursue their dreams of college and career success, as well as our faculty and staff as they teach, advise, counsel and support them,” said Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings. “I’m confident that our campus families will rise to the occasion, as previous generations have done when facing difficult challenges.

“Given the insidious nature of the virus, clusters of cases will develop, but I strongly believe we have protocols in place to contain them. I join our college presidents in thanking the professionals at the Department of Health, TEMA, THEC and the Governor’s Unified Command Group for helping us prepare.”

Students, parents and the public can view numbers of cases by college, updated weekly, on the College System’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

The colleges are making their campuses feel as normal and active as possible while being safe. Most will have their Welcome Week activities, following safety guidelines. Northeast students are competing in a Face Mask Face Off for a $100 gift card, posting selfies in their masks in three categories -- most creative, best school spirit and best academic-major theme. Chattanooga State’s Humanities Department will present two major events virtually next month:  YA-hoo Fest, a Young Adult book festival Sept. 14-17, and best-selling author Daniel Wallace will be featured in a weeklong celebration of his novel Big Fish Sept. 21-27. Other arts and cultural events are planned across the system.

Despite the challenges, it’s important for students to continue their education. A new report by SCORE, in partnership with the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research, underscores that the unemployment gap between degree-earners and those without post high school credentials widened during the last two economic recessions and had not closed when the current downturn started.

And as students and parents weigh their choices, new research by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center underscores the benefits of taking community college courses.

Our colleges are maintaining their full range of academic, career and financial aid counseling and success coaching. Mental health and other resources are available. Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect provide tuition-free education for many students. Dual enrollment programs for high school students across the state continue.

“The start of a new academic year and the return of our students gladden our hearts and spirits, and this year is no different despite the challenges. Masks aren’t hiding the smiles of our students. They – and the future of our communities, state, nation and planet that our students represent – are why we’re here,” Tydings said.

It’s not too late to enroll. Visit tbr.edu or your nearest community or technical college to learn more and get started. They are: Chattanooga State Community College, Cleveland State Community College, Columbia State Community College, Dyersburg State Community College, Jackson State Community College, Motlow State Community College, Nashville State Community College, Northeast State Community College, Pellissippi State Community College, Roane State Community College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Volunteer State Community College and Walters State Community College.

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.