Tennessee Reconnect Efforts
Tennessee Reconnect is one major initiative of the Drive to 55, which is focused on helping adults 25 and older enter postsecondary education so that they may gain new skills, advance in the workplace, and fulfill lifelong dreams of completing a degree or credential. The programs of Tennessee Reconnect directly focus on the fourth strategy of Drive to 55, which is to create opportunities for adults to finish a degree or credential that they have started.
The overarching Tennessee Reconnect initiative is made up of several state and local efforts that aim to increase support to and opportunities for adults returning to higher education through programs that directly support adult learners and collaborate with institutions, communities, and employers. Below are the descriptions of all of our Tennessee Reconnect programs.
TCAT Reconnect Grant
The TCAT Reconnect Grant is a last-dollar scholarship available to adults who want to attend a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT). It pays the remaining balance of tuition after other state and Pell grants have been applied. This grant is available for adults who are Tennessee residents and enroll full-time at a TCAT in pursuit of a certificate or diploma. Students must maintain continuous enrollment and satisfactory academic progress. More information is available here.
Community College Reconnect Grant
The Community College Reconnect Grant is a pilot, last-dollar scholarship program that will began fall 2016. The Community College Reconnect Grant funds will be applied after all other gift aid is applied. Eligible for Tennessee residents who have earned at least 30 credit hours toward an associate degree, enroll in at least 9 credit hours per semester, and have not been enrolled in a postsecondary institution at least 1 year prior to application, will be eligible to receive a last-dollar scholarship. Students must maintain continuous enrollment, satisfactory academic progress, and a 2.0 GPA.
TN Reconnect Communities & the TN Reconnect Community Network
As Tennessee is developing initiatives, programs, and supports at the state level for adult learners, communities are where the success of Drive to 55 will be decided. By localizing the Drive to 55, communities will be engaged in assisting and supporting their residents in the pursuit of postsecondary completion. This community-based service will reach out to and support adults locally to re-enroll in postsecondary education and complete a postsecondary credential. Prospective adult learners will be provided a variety of services including advising, career counseling, and scholarship resources. These community centers will also act as a connecting point for local employers, local institutions of higher education, and prospective adult learners, working to create awareness of the benefits of adult completion as a strategy for economic development and a source for workforce talent. Information on the initial grant proposals is available here. For more information on the Tennessee Reconnect Communities, click here.
THEC worked in partnership with the University of Tennessee system and the Tennessee Board of Regents to develop a web portal focused on providing resources to adults returning to, or enrolling for the first time in, postsecondary education. This new, public website helps adults navigate learning opportunities available at Tennessee institutions. Adults are provided options that fit their needs, schedules, and goals. The portal also allows former community college and university students to enter transcript information and receive back a list of academic pathway options and institutions offering those options. The purpose of this portal is to offer a single destination for adults where they can find resources to transcend institutional boundaries including, but not limited to, offering processes to explore the benefits, comparability, and costs of attaining a degree or credential. The web portal launched January 2016.
Tennessee Reconnect + Complete
Tennessee’s adult learner re-engagement initiative reaches the 110,000+ Tennessee adults aged 25-64 who have earned at least 50 percent of credits toward an associate or bachelor’s degree but have never finished college. The purpose of Tennessee Reconnect + Complete is to locate these adults and provide resources for Tennessee institutions to reach out to them and encourage them to finish their degree. Institutions were able to reach out to the adults directly, offering information about their institution, as well as the statewide Tennessee Reconnect + Complete effort.
Participating institutions received resources highlighting best practices, outreach resources, and the contact information for their former adult student non-completers. Additionally, these institutions received marketing materials to begin outreach to their former students in January 2016 to coincide with the statewide media push. On January 11, 2016 television commercials, radio ads, billboards, and cinema advertising launched across Tennessee, encouraging adults to finish a credential. The advertising directed Tennesseans to visit TNReconnect.gov, the state’s new adult learner portal, and to ultimately connect to an institution. The statewide marketing effort continued through the month of February.
Ready to Reconnect Institutional Grants
In February 2015, THEC released a call for proposals to public and private not-for-profit two- and four-year institutions and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) for mini-grants to fund institutional initiatives to support adult learning. $748,667 in Ready to Reconnect grants were awarded to 17 higher education institutions. The programs funded through Ready to Reconnect support adult student retention and completion through increased support and programmatic elements. Many of the funded programs plan to engage adult learners by connecting them with adult learner peers, increasing access to technology for academic purposes, and supporting connections between their academic pursuits and career ambitions. Other institutions are providing training and resources to faculty and staff to further support their adult students inside and outside the classroom, such as providing faculty training on incorporating multiple methods of instruction, including experiential and problem-based methods. For more information, click here.
TimewiseTN – Prior Learning Assessment Branding
As a state, Tennessee has made great strides to develop clearer, more comprehensive Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) standards and provide more PLA options to students. However, students are finding it difficult in some cases to locate information about those PLA opportunities. THEC worked with a marketing firm to develop a common identity for all PLA programs in the state. The result is TimewiseTN: Turn Your Years of Knowledge into College Credit. We have developed a logo and a student orientation brochure and video that is available to any institution that will also use the TimewiseTN moniker. Institutional PLA programs will not change in form; however, the goal is to develop a common language that will be clear to students and allow them to find PLA resources on campus. The adoption of the logo and program name (TimewiseTN) is voluntary, and those institutions who do adopt the name will be identified on the adult learner portal as TimewiseTN schools. For more information, click here.