New funding helps local adults finish college degrees

This week Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced the launching of Tennessee Reconnect, a state initiative that will help more adults return to school to complete their post-secondary education.

Tennessee has nearly 1 million adults with some college but no degree. As part of Tennessee Reconnect, adults will be able to attend and earn a certificate at any of the 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) completely free of tuition and fees.

In Memphis, The University of Memphis continues its own initiative that helps adults finish their degrees. The program, Finish Line, encourages students who have dropped out after earning 90 or more credit hours to return to school to finish their degrees at low or no cost. Many of these students had to abandon their academic pursuits because they exhausted their financial aid or encountered challenging social factors, such as having to work full-time to support a family. Finish Line students take both traditional and online courses, and may qualify for experiential learning credit for knowledge or skills gained outside the classroom.

Some 67 students have earned degrees through the program since Finish Line was launched in 2013.

In conjunction with the Tennessee Reconnect announcement, the University of Memphis this week announced two new gifts to support Finish Line. Sedgwick Claims Management Services, a national provider of innovative, technology-enabled claims and productivity management solutions, has made a $300,000 commitment to the program over three years. Finish Line also received a $25,000 gift from Dr. Trish Ring and Ring Companies, a privately held, multinational corporation headquartered in Oakland, Tenn.

Adults already make up roughly 30 percent of enrolled public undergraduate students in the state. Tennessee Reconnect is committed to making sure that number continues to rise, by providing adults with an affordable and flexible part-time post-secondary opportunity.

"In today's higher education landscape, only one in four students is able to pursue the traditional, residential experience," said U of M President M. David Rudd. "A growing number are returning adults learners, all facing multiple challenges to completing a college education. This program provides the support and flexibility necessary to help make a college degree possible for a growing number of students."

Read more articles by Anna Mullins.

Anna is a local writer, editor and non-profit administrator. She serves as Managing Editor for High Ground and as the Director of Communications and Marketing for the New Memphis Institute. Share feedback and story ideas with her here.
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