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The proposed act would expand the postsecondary education initiative to all adults throughout the state, guaranteeing them tuition-free access to state-funded two-year community colleges. If the proposal makes it through the legislature, Tennessee would be the first state in the nation to offer tuition-free community college to all of its residents.
While the act would not directly apply to WGU Tennessee, it reaffirms the governor’s dedication to educational opportunity through the Drive to 55 initiative, and greatly affects some of the wonderful institutions that partner with us in communities around the state. The expanded Tennessee Reconnect initiative will allow working adults to earn an associate degree at one of the 13 institutions in the state’s community college network, and in turn automatically qualify them to attend WGU Tennessee at a discounted rate.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Haslam made it clear that continued efforts toward the administration’s Drive to 55 program are imperative to the future of Tennessee, saying, “Wherever you might fall on life’s path, education beyond high school is critical to the Tennessee we can be. We don’t want cost to be an obstacle anyone has to overcome as they pursue their own generational change for themselves and their families.” He went on to say, “The Tennessee we can be provides not only access to opportunity but the tools to be successful.”
According to the Haslam administration, there are nearly 2 million eligible adults in Tennessee, an estimated 900,000 of whom have recorded college experience, but have not earned a degree of any kind. The administration has also reported that, to reach its Drive to 55 goal, the state still needs 871,000 employable residents with postsecondary credentials, including community and technical college degrees, certificates or university degrees. That is 155,000 more than the number of high school students expected to graduate in the next eight years.
WGU Tennessee, a product of the governor’s Drive to 55 initiative, is an avid supporter of adult education, boasting an average graduate age of 37. Not only does the expansion of the Reconnect Act open WGU’s doors to many more Tennesseans, it is an important step to achieving the goal of the Drive to 55 initiative. It is our sincere hope that the governor’s innovative program will inspire adults around the state to strive for more, and accomplish goals that have long been put on the back burner. And when that new class of working adults has accomplished those goals, WGU Tennessee will be there, encouraging them to dream even bigger.
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