Tennessee’s new free-tuition program for adult learners starts in the fall of 2018. That has community colleges in the state spreading the word to prospective students. But the effort is more than just promoting the new scholarship program. It includes addressing questions older learners may have, from receiving credit for work experience to the uncertainty of returning to a school environment.
Volunteer State Community College is spotlighting efforts such as prior learning assessment, which helps students hasten towards a college degree by evaluating their life experiences for possible college credit. It also highlights what is called an Academic Fresh Start program, which provides an opportunity to disregard previous poor grades that were earned at the college. Students can work to earn higher grades and increase their GPA.
In addition, Vol State is profiling students who returned to college, including drop outs, as inspiration for potential adult students. One of those previous dropouts happens to be Vol State President Jerry Faulkner, who left the University of Tennessee at Knoxville when he was a junior and spent years doing various jobs.
“I realized that what I was getting out of life was a paycheck and an ulcer,” Faulkner said. “If I was going to have a more meaningful career, I would need a college education.”
As he approached age 30, Faulkner went back to college.
“It was very scary. The job I left was pretty good paying. I had a wife and son. We made the decision that I should go to college full-time,” Faulkner said. “The anticipation before I got in the class was the scariest part. I had a lot of anxiety because I knew I would be in a classroom with a lot of younger people.”
Despite the fears, academic challenges and the financial burden of balancing work and school, Faulkner went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. When asked what advice he gives to adults considering college, Faulkner remembers what he felt as an adult student.
“Don’t let fear hold you back. You can succeed,” he said. “The likely maturity you gained will make you a better student. Education is a great vehicle to get you where you want to go. The tassel is worth the hassle.”
Aside from the Tennessee Reconnect scholarship, Vol State is letting adult students know they could be eligible for other student aid, including Pell grants and the college’s own scholarships. Other efforts to draw in adults includes highlighting evening and online classes, sharing services available to military veterans, and featuring its academic advisers, who can help students set-up a plan for the degree they are seeking. Vol State has even created a web page especially designed for adult students.