Tennessee Reconnect Program Offers Free Community College To State Residents

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - In a little over a year, Tennessee becomes the first state in the nation to offer free community college education to nearly every resident without a degree. Called Tennessee Reconnect, it was one of Governor Bill Haslam's signature proposals that passed the legislature last week.

A lot of phone calls have been coming into community colleges about the TN Reconnect program.

The admissions director at Nashville State Community College says she gets a thousand phone calls a week, some of them just learning about Tennessee Reconnect.

“They want to know the requirements, if they are going to be eligible,” says Laura Moran. “They want to know when it starts.”

One of those who may be calling is Berwin Freeman, Sr. who was at the community college with his son. The elder Freeman is very interested in going back to school when the free community college tuition statewide begins in the fall of 2018.

Mr. Freeman is one of the people Gov. Haslam may have been thinking of when he introduced the proposal this year, so that more adults would go back to get college degrees and become more of an educated workforce.

“There are several things that I am interested in,” says Freeman. “Theology and counseling. I would like to do drug rehab counseling.”

Making community college free for any adult in Tennessee would be a first in the country.

Matthew Burdette works in the community college's bookstore and is already a student there, so he knows why some 25-year-olds like him don't go to college right away.

“Having an opportunity to come back later on, when you are more mature, situation, or ready for it financially, and I have friends where kids pop up,” says Burdette.

Some more details are expected next week when the measure is signed into law by Gov. Haslam. That ceremony is scheduled next week at the state capitol.

Reserves from the Tennessee Lottery will fund the Tennessee Reconnect program.

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