Tennessee's community colleges welcome more than 83,000 students for first day of Fall Semester

More than 83,000 students are starting a new academic year today at Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, where they’ll find new facilities, programs and services to enhance their learning experience. Registration for late applicants continues this week.

Welcoming events will be held at most campuses throughout the week as students arrive for classes.

Underscoring the colleges’ renown for quality and innovation, the personal finance website WalletHub last week ranked Tennessee’s community colleges in its Top 10 Best Community College Systems for 2019, the second consecutive year on the list. The ranking is based on WalletHub’s analysis of 710 colleges across the U.S. with 19 metrics of quality and costs, including student-faculty ratios and graduation rates.

The 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology open their fall trimester classes next week. New TCAT faculty members are attending regional New Faculty Institutes this week.

The community colleges and TCATs comprise The College System of Tennessee, governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents. From Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis to Northeast State Community College in the Tri-Cities area, the colleges offer classes at more than 175 locations easily accessible to most Tennesseans. The colleges also offer online classes directly and through the systemwide TN eCampus partnership. Dual enrollment programs enable high school students to earn college credit – and for many, an Associate’s degree or technical certificate by the time they graduate from high school.

The Fall Semester census won’t be official until after the 14th day of classes.

This semester’s new students include the fifth Tennessee Promise class and adult learners in the Tennessee Reconnect program. Promise and Reconnect are the state’s groundbreaking initiatives for students to attend college tuition-free as they pursue Associates degrees, technical certificates and diplomas, or earn college credit for transfer to universities. Credit earned in the Tennessee Transfer Pathways program is guaranteed to transfer to Tennessee’s public universities and to 23 private universities that have signed onto the program.

eTextbook Initiative

In an effort to further remove financial barriers, the system’s colleges are expanding a voluntary eTextbook initiative that was piloted this past spring semester. Textbooks are not covered by the Promise and Reconnect programs and their costs create significant college completion and equity barriers for some students.

Under the new initiative, eTextbooks and other digital learning materials will be provided to students in about 3,400 individual classes, on their first day of class at substantially reduced costs and billed to their student accounts unless they choose to opt out and purchase materials on their own. Participation is entirely voluntary by both faculty members and individual students in the participating classes. Only about 4 percent of students who were offered digital learning materials in the pilot program during the Spring Semester opted out; the 4,351 who participated saved more than $500,000 compared to retail prices.  

Two community colleges are celebrating their 50th anniversaries throughout the academic year. Dyersburg State Community College and Motlow State Community College both opened in Fall 1969.

A sampling of new programs and services awaiting students this semester:

  • Chattanooga State Community College is launching a new mentorship program to connect underrepresented minority students to campus, increase interactions with faculty and staff, and provide other services to improve their chances of success. B.O.S.S. (Building Outstanding Service Scholars) will pair 20 students with faculty and staff mentors for the full academic year. The college also has new state-of-the-art labs for its Cyber Defense and Networking programs, and is offering a health “Career in a Year” Advanced-Level Pharmacy Technology program. And bringing smiles to the faces of returning students, dozens of Chattanooga State faculty, staff and students participated a Lip Sync Music Video and invited other colleges to consider joining the #CollegeLipSync challenge.
  • Cleveland State Community College is launching a new free shuttle service, the Cougar Coach Shuttle, for students traveling from Meigs and McMinn counties to the main campus in Cleveland. And the college will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday for its new $25 million Health and Science Building, the first building on campus in more than 40 years. The Mary T. Barker Humanities Building will also be renovated.
  • Columbia State Community College will reopen its renovated John W. Finney Memorial Library on the Columbia Campus later this fall, and students at the college’s growing Williamson Campus will have a new parking structure in November. Williamson Campus students may also ride Franklin Transit’s fixed-route services free by showing their student IDs.
  • At Dyersburg State Community College, students will find a newly renovated first floor of the Dale F. Glover Education Center, which houses biology, chemistry, physical sciences and anatomy classrooms. It will mimic the design of the second floor’s $1 million renovation completed last year. The college celebrates its 50th anniversary with a Sept. 27 gala featuring alumnus and Nashville recording artist and singer-songwriter Steven Whitson.
  • Jackson State Community College is resuming adult education in Madison, Gibson and Henry Counties. The college’s library is undergoing a complete replacement of its heating and air conditioning system. Library services, the Academic Assistance Center and the Writing Center are temporarily housed in other campus locations until the library reopens by the end of September.
  • Motlow State Community College is opening the first semester of classes for degree-seeking students at the new Automation & Robotics Training Center at the college’s McMinnville Campus. The state-of-the-art facility has six teaching labs housing robots and other training equipment used in the manufacturing industry. The college has also signed a new 2+2 mechatronics program articulation agreement with Tennessee State University, allowing students to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in mechatronics at Motlow, then continue to take classes at the McMinnville Campus to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical & Industrial Technologies with a concentration in mechatronics from TSU. Motlow has also signed new articulation agreements with TCATs Hartsville and Livingston providing for seamless transfers for their students to the mechatronics program in McMinnville.
  • Nashville State Community College has several new additions this fall to better serve students, including Nashville GRAD (Getting Results by Advancing Degrees), a partnership with Metro Nashville provides robust academic and career advising and financial supports beyond tuition for first-time, full-time Davidson County students. The college is opening its first food pantry, the Campus Cupboard, in partnership with Piedmont Natural Gas, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Kroger, to provide groceries and personal care items to students in need. The college has also opened a new Student Success Center equipped with full-time advisors, financial empowerment coordinator, a family resource center coordinator and a representative of United Way.
  • Northeast State Community College will have a new Office of Accessibility Services. The new office will provide all accommodation services while expanding online resources and software that students may access on- and off-campus. On average, the office aids more than 400 students each academic year.
  • Pellissippi State Community College launches its new Water Quality Technology degree program, which will prepare students for careers in water and wastewater treatment systems. It is the first program of its kind in the state and was developed with the utility industry. The college has begun construction on its new 82,000-square-foot Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science, scheduled for opening in two years.
  • Roane State Community College is opening a food pantry in renovated space in the gymnasium’s entry foyer. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new service is set for 11 a.m. ET Tuesday. A $1,000 gift from the Kroger Co. Foundation will help stock the pantry, which is operated in partnership with Mid-East Community Action Agency.
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College is launching a new program offering Associates degrees in Communication. In addition, the fall semester marks the first cohort of students enrolled in the new Funeral Service Education program, and by spring, students will have a new $700,000 state-of-the-art, hands-on training facility like no other mortuary school in the state. The college is also investing $5.6 million to renovate the Industrial Readiness Training Facility at its Macon Cove Campus, and $3.5 million for upgrades to buildings at its Union Avenue Campus. Earlier this month, Southwest opened its seventh location, in Fayette County at The University of Tennessee at Martin’s Somerville Center.
  • Volunteer State Community College re-opened its Warf Math and Science building on the Gallatin campus this week after a year-long, $6 million renovation. The project added 6,000 square feet of space to the building and features two new science labs, student study areas and more than 30 faculty offices. One of the biggest additions is a new Mechatronics lab with a classroom area and a large open room for robotics, simulators and other training equipment.
  • Walters State Community College, working with local businesses and industries, has developed a new dual enrollment program in Electrical Engineering Technology that starts this fall. Students will receive classroom instruction and on-the-job training, and can earn an Associate’s degree in electrical engineering while completing their high school diploma, prepared to enter the workforce upon high school graduation.

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.