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UT working to offer more online classes, hoping to reach more working adults and nontraditional students

Randy Boyd, the UT System President, said the college is specifically targeting nontraditional students as it looks to offer more online learning opportunities.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee working to reach even more people across the state, educating people and giving them unique skills needed to compete for jobs.

And part of the way they plan to do that is to expand their online education options. UT System President Randy Boyd said that the college is working to reach more working adults and nontraditional students, giving them classes that fit their schedule.

"Your typical mother that's 35 years old with two children in a rural county that doesn't have to drive to a campus every day," Boyd said, describing the kind of person the college is looking to offer online learning. "We want to do a better job reaching out to working adults, the state of Tennessee has to accomplish the 'Drive to 55' to meet workforce needs."

The 'Drive to 55' is an effort by state leaders to get 55% of the state's population a college degree or certificate by 2025, expanding the skills workers have to offer employers. Officials say it is a mission for the state's future workforce and economic development, not just for higher education.

The Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs are both a part of the initiative, which helps pay for people to attend higher education institutions.

UT officials said they saw a surge in enrollment recently. Usually, they see a 2% increase in the number of potential students applying to attend the university. But this way, they saw 2.7% percent more applications.

Boyd said part of the increase was due to the UT Promise Scholarship, which allows students to attend tuition-free as long as their families' household incomes were less than $60,000 per year.

However, many students already at UT said they preferred attending classes in person. Many said that it helped them learn more and enriched their college experience, especially with staff nearby to guide them through difficult lessons.

Boyd said school leaders are still working to build their course offerings, and UT is expected to online-only institutions to offer online classes.

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