$400K Grant To Help More Students to Graduate From College
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Thousands of students from community colleges will soon be able to complete their associates while pursuing a four year degree. State leaders say it's thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation. They hope will provide an incentive for more students to graduate.
Jill King is not your typical college student but at Nashville State Community College, she represents about half of the population.
"I'm a mother of two. I have two other full time jobs other than working (at the community college)," King said. "With my children I want them to see that it's never too late to go back, to achieve (and) to be independent."
Now King is back in school for a fresh start, this time pursuing a degree in elementary education.
"I plan on staying here like another year, maybe a year and a half and then I plan to transfer to either MTSU or TSU to get my… teacher's license," King explained.
Last year 900 students transferred from Nashville State to a four year institution; 58% left before earning their Associates degree.
"So when the student leaves prior to receiving the degree we don't get the funding for that student," Jennifer Knapp, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs explained about the impact on community colleges.
It also affects the transfers who up until now can only apply their community college classes to a Bachelor's degree. It typically means they no longer have a shot at first earning their Associates.
"You've put all that hard work and that effort into getting that degree," King added.
The University of Tennessee System and the Board of Regents announced changes that will allow those transfers to still earn their Associates while pursuing a four year degree. It's called a reverse transfer. Studies show students who get their associates degree through this reverse transfer are 10 percent more likely to complete their four year degrees.
"It's really opened up doors to make you re-evaluate maybe I need to go ahead and move on to the four year college," King said about the announcement.
It also would restore lost funding to community colleges that will now be able to include transfers with enough credits to their list of graduates.
"It allows a student to earn a credential that if something were to happen and they couldn't finish their four year degree," Knapp explained, "they've got a credential to help them in the workplace and in the job market."
A credential is the first step for King to begin improving the life of her family.
"That would just be sooner that I could go out and get a better paying job," she said, "and start establishing our future."
Both public and private universities are joining the program that's expected to be fully implemented in 2015.