Tennessee Reconnect Faces Barriers

GALLATIN, Tenn. - One week ago, Governor Bill Haslam unveiled Tennessee Reconnect, a program that will bring tuition free community college to adults across the state. But some experts say cost is only one barrier when it comes to attracting adults to college campuses.

"It's a lot," said Vol State student Oressa Jackson.

Jackson is pursuing a degree in childhood education after several years out of the classroom. But she's also a mother to two children and a full time nanny.

She said several fears almost kept her off of campus.

"Math, math was scary and computers," she said. "I told my 10-year-old daughter that I didn't even know how to log onto the computers here."

Jackson said she hears similar concerns from her friends, but she thinks Reconnect will push many in the right direction.

"I always tell them they should come back to school, but they say they they're not ready or they'd need to take out a loan," she said. "Financial help in the beginning would make it much easier."

Experts at Vol State often hear scheduling concerns from adult learners.

"It can be difficult for them to make it work with a full time job," said Kenneth Hanson, who manages adult learners at Vol State. "We'll encourage evening classes or online classes, but even those can be intimidating if you've never taken one before."

Hanson said right now, Reconnect only requires someone to be a resident of Tennessee for at least a year and that they take six credit hours each semester.

"It's manageable," he said.

The first step will be to make sure people know about the program.

"It'll take a lot of advertising on our part to let the adult students know this is available and that we're here to help them out and get them started in the process," Hanson said.

Reconnect is set to launch in Fall 2018.

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