One Pager: Tennessee Reconnect
Tennessee Reconnect Act
Completing the path for ALL Tennesseans to access higher education tuition-free
The Tennessee Reconnect Act establishes a last-dollar scholarship for adults to attend a community college tuition-free. With this extension of the Drive to 55, which comes at no additional cost to taxpayers, every Tennessean will have the opportunity to enter or reenter public higher education with no tuition expenses.
Why Tennessee Reconnect?
Tennessee needs 871,000 degrees to reach our Drive to 55 goal, but only 645,000 high school students are expected to graduate between 2014 and 2022. We must bolster our focus on the recruitment, retention and completion of adults in higher education. At every public higher education institution in Tennessee adults earn a higher share of credentials, often because they return to education more focused on the challenge. Today, the state has a tremendous opportunity to attract more adults to higher education, with more than 900,000 Tennesseans having earned some college credit but no degree. Tennessee Reconnect provides an immediate payoff for Tennessee’s workforce and an investment in the state’s economy that will provide dividends for decades to come. Employers will get the skills and credentials they are seeking from the workforce, and employees will have new opportunities for career growth.
To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, the student must:
- Not already have an associate or bachelor degree;
- Have been a Tennessee resident for at least one year preceding the date of application for the grant;
- Complete the FAFSA and be deemed an independent student;
- Be admitted to an eligible institution (any of the state’s 13 public community colleges or any four year institution that is eligible for the Tennessee education lottery scholarship, as defined by TCA 49-4-902, that offers an associate degree program) and enroll in a degree or certificate program at least part time (6 semester hours) beginning with the 2018-19 year; and
- Participate in an advising program approved by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
In order to maintain the Tennessee Reconnect grant, the student must enroll in classes leading to an associate’s degree or certificate, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and maintain continuous enrollment.
Adults who meet all the requirements will receive a last-dollar scholarship, which is equal to the difference between tuition and fees and any gift aid (grants and scholarships) that a student receives. Tennessee Reconnect will be funded through the lottery for education account and will cost approximately $10 million once fully implemented.
Drive to 55
In 2013, Governor Haslam launched the Drive to 55 to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. As a result, the Haslam administration and General Assembly established the Tennessee Promise, which allows high school graduates meeting certain requirements to attend two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees, and the TCAT Reconnect scholarship, which provides free technical college for adults. Drive to 55 is changing the landscape of what is possible in Tennessee public higher education, its workforce and economy. Tennessee Reconnect enhances these possibilities and solidifies Tennessee’s standing as the nation’s leader in higher education innovation and opportunity.
An “independent” student is defined as one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Please see https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/dependency for a complete list.