UT Martin offers community college students transfer scholarships

Dr. Allana Hamilton, president, Jackson State; Dr. Keith Carver, chancellor, UT Martin; Dr. Flora Tydings, chancellor, Tennessee Board of Regents; and Mike Krause, executive director, Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Tennessee Promise students at community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system looking to complete their four-year degrees will benefit from a new transfer scholarship program established by the University of Tennessee at Martin.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed Wednesday by UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver, TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings and Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause make UT Martin the first four-year public university in the state to formalize an extension of the Tennessee Promise scholarship program. The announcement and signing ceremony were held in the new Jim and Janet Ayers Center for Health Science at Jackson State Community College.

JSCC President Allana Hamilton and Carver share much common ground in their first year leading their respective institutions in West Tennessee. Hamilton welcomed Carver, Krause, Tydings and other higher education officials to the JSCC campus to formalize the new partnership through UT Martin’s Elam Transfer Promise scholarships that will benefit Promise students who seek to continue their studies at Martin.

The Tennessee Promise is both a scholarship and mentoring program focused on increasing the number of students who attend and graduate from college in Tennessee. The program covers tuition and mandatory fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship or the Tennessee Student Assistance Award. Students can use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institutions offering associate degree programs. 

UT Martin offers three tiers of Elam Transfer Promise scholarships for those who qualify. The scholarships are named for the late Kathleen and Tom Elam of Union City, longtime UT Martin and University of Tennessee supporters. 

Hamilton told those attending the signing event that approximately half of Jackson State students plan to transfer to a four-year college or university. “So, here at Jackson State, we view that as our responsibility to help develop pathways, to help develop seamless transitions from Jackson State to four-year colleges and universities. And with our guests today, I’m going to say from Jackson State to UT Martin,” she said.

Krause, founding executive director of the Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55 before his appointment to lead THEC, sees the partnership as a natural extension of the Promise. “First and foremost, what’s going to happen today is an opportunity for us to build a bridge in West Tennessee between Jackson State students to UT Martin students,” he said. “If you think back to the original idea behind Tennessee Promise, it was really to change how students thought about their future.” He recognized Jackson State’s success retaining more than 80 percent of Tennessee Promise students who attend the community college. 

“I’m excited about what’s going to happen in West Tennessee with these two leaders specifically (Hamilton and Carver) and then with Chancellor Tydings leading at the system level,” Krause said. “What I know from all three of these leaders is this is only about students. That’s it. That’s what they’re about, and that student focus in West Tennessee will be transforming.”

Carver said that the agreement is an extension of a long-standing relationship with Jackson State. “And to be able to really say to all of our partners in the Tennessee Board of Regents, we’re here for you when you want to continue on, and we’re going to provide some financial aid and scholarships to aid you in this journey. 

“So the UT Martin Elam Transfer Promise scholarships, I hope, will send a signal not just to West Tennessee, but also across the state … that we want to be a destination for your students, and we’re going to continue to provide the same type of student service and focus on quality instruction that the students are getting at Jackson State and other places,” Carver said.

Tydings credited Hamilton and Carver for their leadership in being the first to formally connect the Tennessee Promise to a four-year public university. “They took the initiative to put this down in a formal process where we had a lot of students that have taken part in the transfer before,” she said. “This formalization of (the process) will now help students to understand the (transfer) pathway, not just for Jackson State, but for all of our 40 institutions across the state of Tennessee.”

Information about the Elam Transfer Promise scholarships is available at utm.edu or by calling the UT Martin Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at 731-881-7040.

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.