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Tennessee Reconnect

Introducing the Tennessee Reconnect Scholarship

Tennessee Reconnect is an initiative aimed at helping adults earn a postsecondary credential. As part of the Reconnect initiative, Tennessee adults will be able to attend and earn a certificate at one of our 27 colleges of applied technology (TCATs) completely free of tuition and fees.

Tennessee Reconnect

It is essential for us to reengage adults in postsecondary education, and we believe eliminating financial barriers for the state’s TCATs is a critical step. Tennessee Reconnect will encourage more adults to attend TCATs by making two fundamental changes:  

A. Provide a last-dollar TCAT scholarship to adult students. Tennessee Reconnect will provide a last-dollar scholarship for every qualifying adult* who attends a TCAT. As a last-dollar scholarship, it will cover tuition and fees after all other financial aid has been applied. 

B. Allow adults to qualify for the Wilder-Naifeh technical skills grant even if they had previously received a HOPE scholarship. In academic year 2012-13, 1,178 students at TCATs were not eligible to receive the Wilder-Naifeh technical skills grant because they had already received HOPE funds.The estimated cost for the last-dollar scholarship is $1.5 million per year, and the estimated cost for prior HOPE recipients to receive Wilder-Naifeh is $2.2 million per year

Adult Learners
Tennessee has between 900,000 and 1 million adults with some college but no degree. It is impossible to achieve the mission of the Drive to 55 without engaging these nontraditional students. Even if 100 percent of high school graduates between now and 2025 attained a postsecondary credential, Tennessee would only see an additional 240,000 degrees, which is half of the 494,000 needed to reach 55 percent by 2025. Tennessee’s Drive to 55 relies largely on the recruitment, retention, and graduation of adults. In fact, without a focus on this group, we cannot meet the Drive to 55. Adults make up roughly 30 percent of enrolled public undergraduate students in Tennessee. Tennessee Reconnect is an important step in making sure that number continues to rise, as it will provide adults with an affordable and flexible postsecondary opportunity in the midst of juggling many other responsibilities.

Why TCATs?
Tennessee does one thing better than any other state: education in technology and applied fields. TCATs provide training for workers to obtain state-of-the-art technical skills necessary in today’s competitive job market. Not only do TCATs have completion rates of 81 percent, but they have equally impressive job placement rates of 86 percent. TCAT programs are cohort-based and designed in block schedules, meaning that an individual attends with the same group of students with a set schedule five days a week, resulting in better student outcomes and accelerated time to a diploma or certificate. In short, this design means people complete credentials faster, making them eligible for well-paying, skilled employment more quickly. Even more, the fields for which TCATs supply credentials are the occupations Tennessee most needs for economic development: welders, mechanics, nurses, etc. In fact, TCATs receive accreditation based on graduation and job placement rates, so if TCATs aren’t filling jobs because there is no demand, they will shift program focus to match market need.

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*Qualifying adults are those that are deemed “independent” students as defined by FAFSA. In most cases, this definition includes Tennessee citizens age 24 or older. There are exceptions to this definition, however. Please see http://www.fafsa.com/understanding-fafsa/fafsa-dependency for a complete list.

Tennessee Reconnect Information Sheet