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On Wednesday, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Reconnect Act, which would allow adults in the state to attend community college tuition-free. The act is now on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk for approval.
Tennessee Reconnect was first introduced in Haslam’s 2017 State of the State Address and was modeled after the Tennessee Promise program, which provides two years of free community college to high school graduates. The Tennessee Reconnect Act would make Tennessee the first state in the country to provide free community college to adults, but the act also provides other services to college-bound adults.
The Tennessee Reconnect website allows people in certain counties to become connected to advisers that are available through the Tennessee Reconnect Community Page. According to the website, the advisers are there to offer “free advising, career exploration tools, assistance in understanding financial aid and college costs” and assistance in selecting the college and major that is catered to each person’s interests. The website also allows adult students to find other “adult student contacts” to assist in navigating through courses and degrees. All of these options are offered separately to adult men and women who are returning to college to finish a degree, people going to college for the first time and members of the military.
The Tennesee Reconnect Act is another key element in Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, which has the goal of increasing the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees to 55 percent by 2025. Other programs under the Drive to 55 initiative are The Labor Education Alignment Program, which assists in aligning the needs of industry in local areas with that of higher education offered, Advise TN, which allows high school juniors and seniors early access to college advising and the Tennessee Promise program.
In a statement released by the governor’s office, Haslam said, “In Tennessee, we’ve determined that the best jobs plan is an education plan. If we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs, and there is no smarter investment than increasing access to high-quality education.”
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