TN Gov. Bill Haslam gives his annual State of the State address to the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
UPDATE: For many working adults looking for a new job. A job that'll pay more, going back to school is sometimes out of reach. Now, there's help, it's called Tennessee Reconnect.
"Tennessee Reconnect is a great opportunity for 900,000 Tennesseans who have some college credit but haven't finished that degree and so we think it's a great opportunity for those adults to come back and finish the degree they started," said Nancy Patterson with Chattanooga State.
It's called a Last Dollar Program which means the state will cover all tuition and fees after grants and scholarships have been applied.
"It will provide the last dollars to finish covering their tuition," said Patterson.
To qualify for Tennessee Reconnect, you must be 24 or older. The program makes it possible for all Tennesseans to have access to a community college degree beginning in the fall of 2018.
"We want to encourage adults to come and take advantage of the Tennessee reconnect program so that they can help fill the jobs that we know are needed to be filled in our community that require some type of post secondary education,"said Patterson.
Tennessee Reconnect picks up where Tennessee Promise leaves off. That program gives all high school seniors access to two free years of community college or technical school.
PREVIOUS STORY: Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam wants to ease the burden of pursuing a college degree for all Tennesseans.
Haslam spelled out his plan during Monday's state of the state address. His $37 billion budget proposal includes $100 million in teacher pay raises, $132 million of the state's reserve fund, and a $45 million broadband initiative to encourage companies to increase internet access to rural areas.
He also announced extensions to his college tuition program. If approved, Tennessee Reconnect would offer all Tennessee adults without a degree access to community college, tuition-free.
"We don't want cost to be an obstacle anyone has to overcome as they pursue their own generational change for themselves and their families," Haslam said.
The program has already helped thousands of men and women go back to school, like Lisa Gordon.
"I wanted more options and I've always told people that an education gives you more options so that's what I wanted to do," Gordon said.
Gordon is six classes away from completing her general transfer degree before moving on to a four year college.
Community colleges across the nation are seeing fewer students like Lisa.
Which is why Chattanooga State Community College Vice President of College Advancement, Nancy Patterson hopes the governor's new push will help enrollment and strengthen Tennessee's workforce.
"It's great for Tennesseans and it's great for businesses and industry who rely on our graduates for workforce," Patterson added.
Most of the Reconnect scholarships would come from the state's lottery proceeds. Officials said it's a win-win for the state's 13 community colleges, which have struggled to boost adult enrollment, and will be considering night and weekend classes to better accommodate working parents.