Dennis Powers

Last Thursday, Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation sponsored by State Representative Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro) that reconnects Tennessee adults to higher education opportunities.

House Bill 531, also known as the Tennessee Reconnect Act, makes Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer all Tennessee adults without a degree access to community college tuition-free — and at no cost to taxpayers. 

Currently, Tennessee adults without a degree or certificate can already attend Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) tuition-free. House Bill 531 adds community colleges into that same category. The legislation also expands on a program launched in 2015 aimed at attracting approximately 900,000 Tennesseans who have earned some college credit, but not enough to earn a degree.

To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, a student must be a Tennessee resident for at least one year preceding the date of application and must not already have an associate or bachelor degree. Other requirements include completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) where the applicant is deemed an independent student, participation in an approved advising program, and enrollment in any of the state’s 13 public community college’s degree or certificate programs for six semester hours. In order to maintain the Tennessee Reconnect grant, the student must enroll in classes leading to an associate’s degree or certificate continuously and maintain at least a 2.0 GPA.

“This legislation is a tremendous investment in our state’s economy because it provides adults with new avenues for career growth,” said Representative Powers. “Companies in our state also benefit because new job candidates will have increased skills and experience to offer employers across Tennessee.”

The full text of House Bill 531 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0531.pdf