Into higher education. A description of community college programs that show some success in providing adults greater access to higher education. Including one in Tennessee for the TCATs. From The Chronicle of Higher Education.
As Plans for Free Community College Spread, Educators Seek to Include Adult Learners
Colleges in Tennessee unveiled a similar idea this fall, called Tennessee Reconnect. The state program covers tuition for any eligible adult at the state’s 27 colleges of applied technology. The state already provides grants to help people gain technical skills, but this is the first widespread effort to cover all tuition costs for adults, says James D. King, vice chancellor for the colleges of applied technology. People without degrees typically have lower-income jobs, and "if it costs an extra nickel to go to school, you’re thinking about paying the light and food bills," says Mr. King. "If you eliminate that cost, now students just have to invest the time."
The colleges saw a 26.7-percent enrollment increase this past fall between Tennessee Promise and Reconnect, which included an increase of 4,900 adult students.
Offering support to adult students inside and outside the classroom is key, as the programs may cover tuition and fees but leave out other expenses like books and child care. At the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Nashville, Melanie R. Brooks, a senior instructor in early-childhood education, helps students find child care near their homes.
'We have to be more compassionate because people are also going through real life.' In addition to requests for traditional services like academic advising and tutoring, Cindy L. Beverley, student-services coordinator at the Murfreesboro campus, hears concerns about long work hours and readjusting to the classroom. She credits close relationships between students and faculty members with helping to keep students enrolled. "We have to be more compassionate because people are also going through real life," she says.
The colleges are also retooling their offerings to better match students’ training with work-force demands, since some communities have struggled to maintain industry. Timothy G. Smith, coordinator of student services in Oneida, says the college there plays a key role on the path to employment, serving many students who are referred from an unemployment office or "repeat customers" who come back to learn new skills for the changing market.