NASHVILLE — Independence Day 2015 has added significance for Tennesseans seeking the freedom which flows from gainful employment this year.
As of July 1, thanks to legislation championed by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), a new program enabling adults to obtain the degree necessary for a better job is available.
Public Chapter 363 (SB605), more commonly known as Tennessee Reconnect, is a major part of Tennessee’s ongoing Drive to 55 program and Tennessee Promise.
Under legislation sponsored by Senator Norris last year, Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Promise made last dollar 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.
This year’s Public Chapter 363 now extends eligibility for adults to attend Tennessee’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. 21st Century jobs are available, but all too often Tennesseans don’t have the certificate or degree required to fill them. This helps Tennesseans help themselves by making it more affordable to pursue a career in advanced industries,” says Norris who, as Chair of the Council of State Governments, 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 for the grant; completion of at least 30 hours towards completing 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 9 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).