MJ Slaby, Knoxville News Sentinel
An email appeared in Laurie Wyatt’s inbox this summer saying she might have earned an associate’s degree.
“I looked at it and thought, that kind of looks too good to be true,” said the now University of Tennessee senior.
The email was from Tennessee Reverse Transfer, which helps students who transferred from community college to a four-year school to retroactively receive an associate’s degree by transferring credits back.
Because of student privacy laws, students who meet specific requirements have to opt in for their transcripts to be used in a degree audit, which will tell them whether they’ve earned the degree or still need specific classes, said Gloria Gammell, project coordinator for Tennessee Reverse Transfer.
Launched in the spring 2015 semester, 341 students across the state — including 72 at UT — were in the first group to receive degrees in June.
This fall, 872 UT students were notified, and Wyatt is one of 228 who opted into the program.
Statewide, about 23 percent of the more than 7,500 students notified opted in.
Tennessee is one of nine states with a large-scale reverse transfer program.
All Tennessee public community colleges and four-year institutions are participating in the program, as well as six private four-year schools, including Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City and Maryville College.
The hope is to add more private institutions to the program, Gammell said. She said the process is free to students and gives them what they already earned.
“I tell students, ‘If you paid for that Corvette in the parking lot, wouldn’t you drive it home?’ ” she said.
She said the associate’s degree can help students land a part-time or summer job. It’s also added security, Gammell said.
“Life happens,” she said.
Wyatt, 39, said she attempted college right out of high school and went to four universities in two years.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” she said.
Nearly 20 years later, the mother of three enrolled at Walters State Community College in 2012 and after a year transferred to UT. She plans to graduate in the spring with a degree in anthropology and has already started a job in her field.
Wyatt said getting her associate’s doesn’t mean she’ll give up on her bachelor’s degree, but it’s recognition of her studies.
“I’m looking forward to having that degree that says, ‘You did the work, here’s your reward,’ ” she said.