TN Reconnect Regional Strategic Roundtables offer insights into assisting adult learners achieve their dreams

TN Reconnect Strategic Roundtable at Jackson State Community College

Tennessee’s community and technical colleges are stepping up their preparations to assist the adult learners who will enroll tuition-free in 2018 using the state’s new Tennessee Reconnect scholarship program.

As a series of 10 TN Reconnect Regional Strategic Roundtables wraps up today, it’s evident that Tennessee Board of Regents’ colleges will be well-prepared to help the anticipated large number of adults who will start classes in Fall 2018 with Reconnect paying their tuition and mandatory fees.

The Reconnect scholarship was established for adults without degrees to attend college tuition-free, at least long enough to earn an associate degree -- providing another pathway for Tennessee to reach the 871,000 new degrees needed to achieve Gov. Haslam’s Drive to 55 goal of 55 percent of working-age Tennesseans with a college credential by 2025. Recent high school graduates can already attend tuition-free for up to five semesters under the Tennessee Promise program, launched in Fall 2015.

Starting on Nov. 6 and concluding on Dec. 8, the Strategic Roundtables were sponsored by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation and the Tennessee Board of Regents. The roundtables provided an opportunity for campus enrollment managers, faculty and TN Reconnect community advisors to discuss strategies, logistics and methods for assisting adult learners as they navigate their way through the college application process.

“Many adults entering college for the first time or those returning to college after an extended time away find the application and enrollment process somewhat overwhelming and confusing.  The collaborative nature of the roundtables has given all of us a deeper understanding of the holistic and supportive environment we must provide for adults making the transition to college life,” said Dr. Heidi Leming, TBR vice chancellor for student success.

Roundtable participants shared campus plans, advising strategies and best practices. They also learned about creative solutions and resources available for accommodating adult students who face barriers such as lack of childcare or transportation, unreliable internet access, outdated computer equipment and the added expense of textbooks and supplies. Unlike TN Promise, adult learners may attend part-time, taking as few as six hours of credit per semester (or two classes), enabling them to schedule classes and study around their work and family responsibilities. Reconnect can be used at the state's 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology. Students may also be able to enroll in a two-year program (not a bachelor's degree program) at an eligible four-year college or university.

To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, students must:

  • Not already have an associate or bachelor degree;
  • Have been a Tennessee resident  for at least one year preceding the date of application for the grant;
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be deemed an independent student;
  • Be admitted to an eligible institution and enroll in a degree or certificate program at least part-time (6 semester hours) beginning with the 2018-19 academic year; and
  • Participate in an advising program approved by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

In Tennessee, 900,000 adults have some college credit but no degree and are considered prospective adult learners.  To support campus recruitment efforts for the Fall 2018 semester, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission will launch a state-wide integrated marketing campaign in February to raise awareness and spark interest in the life-changing opportunities that TN Reconnect offers to adults who thought a college credential was no longer in reach.  

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.