Haslam visits Knoxville to promote free tech school for adults


If you’ve ever thought about going back to school- but didn’t know how to pay for it- the state of Tennessee is offering to pick up the bill.

Governor Bill Haslam spent the week touting his plan to offer free technical college to adults. He made his last stop Friday at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Knoxville.

The initiative is called Tennessee Reconnect and like Tennessee Promise, it’s funded through lottery reserve funds. The difference is that Tennessee Promise is for high school seniors and applies to community colleges and technical schools. Tennessee Reconnect is for adults looking to get technical training at any of the 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT).

Related: Program offers second chance at education for adults

“We’re really excited about this. We’ve seen how effective Tennessee Promise is. When you say ‘free’ it attracts a lot of people who maybe thought before they couldn’t afford…” Governor Haslam told reporters Friday. “This is an additional step for those adults who say I want to go back and get more training but I don’t know how I will afford given where I am in life right now.”

Haslam said this is what the state needs to make sure we attract and keep industry.

“Fifty-five percent of the jobs in 10 years will require a degree or certificate so we have to make sure we’re ready,” Haslam said.

Tennessee Reconnect is part his “Drive to 55” initiative to have 55% of the workforce with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025.

TCAT Knoxville student, Breeanna Brown, said there was a lot of anxiety about how she was going to pay for medical assistant classes when she applied two years ago.

“I ended up in a situation where I would have to be the sole financial support for my children. I had been working as a veterinary technician and unfortunately I wasn’t making a good amount of money to be able to support my family,” Brown said.

Brown knew TCAT was the best option for her learning needs. She said she failed out of traditional college because she needed more hands on learning. After months of waiting, she was able to get the financial aide she needed. But she wishes she would have had Tennessee Reconnect as an option.

“The future students of TCAT are extremely lucky. They don’t have to worry about applying and then that waiting and wondering, ‘Will I get it? Will I get enough?’” she said.

Knoxville TCAT says more than 400 people have already applied for Tennessee Reconnect at its location alone. The school said it is ready for the additional increase in students and have already added 10 satelite programs at other campuses.

Governor Haslam also said he thinks the 27 campuses can handle it. He said an additional $10 million for equipment has been added to the budget over two years.

The deadline to apply for Tennessee Reconnect is May 15th for the the fall of 2015. Visit tnreconnect.govfor more information.

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