New program helps adults attain degrees

tnreconnect-logoA new program effective this month enables Tennessee adults to obtain the degree necessary for a better job.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), championed Public Chapter 363 (SB605), more commonly known as Tennessee Reconnect. It is a major part of Tennessee’s ongoing Drive to 55 program and Tennessee Promise.

  • Previous status: Under legislation sponsored by Norris last year, Tennessee Promise made scholarships for traditional students to attend any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology (TCATs) or other eligible institutions offering an associate degree program beginning in 2015. Non-traditional students (adults returning to school) were eligible only for TCAT enrollment.
  • New status: This year’s Public Chapter 363 now extends eligibility for adults to attend Tennes-see’s public community colleges in the 2016-2017 academic year to complete their associate’s degree in applied science as well.

“We are closing the skills gap in Tennessee,” Norris said. “21st Century jobs are available, but all too often Tennesseans don’t have the certificate or degree required to fill them. This helps Tennes-seans help themselves by making it more affordable to pursue a career in advanced industries.”

As chair of the Council of State Governments, Norris also led a national initiative in workforce development and education, called “State Pathways to Prosperity.” He serves on Tennessee’s Workforce Development Board.

Key qualifications to receive the grant include Tennessee residency for at least one year preceding the date of application; completion of at least 30 hours toward an associate of applied science degree; and an adjusted gross income of less than $36,000.

Grant recipients must maintain a 2.0 GPA and enroll in at least nine semester hours in the fall and spring semesters.

Co-sponsors were Senators Mark Green (R-Clarksville), John Stevens (R-Huntingdon), Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and Ken Yager (R-Kingston).