KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Going back to college or starting college for the first time as an adult can be daunting and sometimes even scary, but for many, earning a degree can make a significant difference in a career or in achieving a lifelong dream.
Wednesday, going to college as an adult became easier. Governor Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Reconnect bill into law.
The law helps offer free community college education to almost every resident without a degree. The bill allows older adults without a college degree attend community college for free. Full-time and part-time students would be eligible to participate in the program starting fall 2018.
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However, for adults that don’t want to wait to go back to school until fall 2018, there are options. Pellissippise State Community College launched their own Reconnect Now campaign which offers free tuition a full year earlier in the fall of 2017 semester.
With the scholarship, college tuition is free for qualified students who wish to earn an associates degree. Reconnect Now covers tuition and mandatory fees that aren’t paid for through other sate and federal financial aid.
“We actually got a bit of a jump on the whole thing by our president, Dr. Anthony Wise,” said Dr. Leigh Anne Touzeau, Assistant Vice President of Enrollment services at Pellissippi State Community College. “He decided when he heard when from the governor’s state of the state address. He said we are going to start using Pellissippi State funds with the Reconnect Now campaign.”
Dr. Touzeau says in order to start the process, students must turn in an admission application to Pellissippi State Community College, which includes transcripts and other information. They must also complete a federal student aid form by August 1.
“We just didn’t want students to sit out the semester if they could go ahead and enroll in classes,” said Dr. Touzeau. “As long as a student keeps a 2.0 GPA, they are going to be able to roll into Tennessee Reconnect.”
Aside from maintaining a 2.0 GPA, students have to enroll in at least two classes or six credit hours to qualify for Reconnect Now. Dr. Touzeau said the scholarship is not based on income.
“The other really important thing about the scholarship is if they start as a traditional age student and they don’t do very well, maybe at a four-year institution, and then they leave that institution and go work for a while, that can sometimes impact federal financial aid, but they are not going to look at that for Reconnect Now.”
Dr. Touzeau said the community college used Governor Haslam’s State of the State address to build the framework for their scholarship.
“Now, we’re lucky, we’re seeing more information with the law being passed,” said Dr. Touzeau. “I think the state is really trying to mirror what Tennessee Promise does.”
People interested in the Reconnect Now scholarship can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (865) 694-6400. Pellissippi State Community College also offers a live chat to answer questions on their website.
The community college is also hosting an open house on Tuesday, June 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m at Goins Auditorium on their Hardin Valley Campus. Advisors from the community college will be on hand to answer questions in person. They will also have applications available.