MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Universities and colleges are taking a hit due to the pandemic. In a lot of cases, enrollment is down. That’s true for Southwest Tennessee Community College. Local 24 News Reporter, Brittani Moncrease, spoke with college representatives who want to encourage students to attend in the fall.
First things first, there are opportunities out there. Southwest Tennessee Community College offers a full ride through Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise scholarships, but they need students to take advantage.
Years ago, Sara Tinker was a student in college.
“I was a vocal major a long time ago and never got my degree. I was busy raising my kids,” said Tinker.
For Tinker, life happened. After 30 years, Tinker returned to school.
“I didn’t know anything about the Tennessee Reconnect. I just showed up at Southwest and said, ‘What do I do,’” said Tinker
Tennessee Reconnect is a last dollar scholarship for adults. Like the Tennessee Promise scholarship for high school seniors going directly to college, it pays for full tuition at state schools such as Southwest Tennessee Community College.
“Just the burden of how am I going to make this all work has been lifted from my shoulders,” said Tinker.
Here is the issue. COVID-19 has led to a decline in applications.
“We’re seeing numbers down with enrollment and with the scholarship across the states,” said Jacqueline Faulkner, Southwest Tennessee Community College Vice President of Student Affairs.
Faulkner said the issue is largely due to the uncertainty COVID has caused.
“Many students and families have a bit of trepidation about the fall semester, how learning will happen…Even might have experienced some unexpected or extenuating circumstances in their lives through this pandemic that are causing them to pause relative to enrollment in the fall,” said Faulkner.
Southwest is doing what it can to ease that worry.
“We will have a combination of shorter semesters. Some will be three weeks. Some will be four weeks, six weeks, 13 and 15 weeks," said Faulkner.
“Our Reimagine Southwest are addressing that inequity with students not having the technology required to be successful. We purchased over 3,000 laptops to ensure that our students’ needs are being met.”
It is an investment in students' futures.
“What we’ve known in the past in crisis is that on the other side, the most educated, qualified and skilled will be able to move directly into the workforce,” said Faulkner.
As for Tinker, she is just two classes away from graduating with her Associate's degree in human resources.
“I’m feeling a lot of pride in myself. A lot of people my age, the first thing out of their mouth is I could never do anything like that,” said Tinker. “It’s not scary to me anymore because I started all over again and I can do this. I’m excited and not fearful.”
The deadline for Tennessee Reconnect is September 1, 2020. The deadline has passed for Tennessee Promise.