Reconnecting Adults to Education in Middle Tennessee

Encouraging adults in the workplace to follow their dreams of further education is more than a noble mission; prioritizing adult education directly affects the bottom line of our region’s businesses. Accomplishing this crucial undertaking is also easier said than done.

Adults entering or returning to school face multiple barriers, but with support, encouragement and guidance from Reconnect Navigator, more adults are finding their way to postsecondary success across the region, and the state. In Tennessee, over 900,000 adults have some college credits, but no degree or credential. Governor Haslam’s “Drive to 55”, and its goal for 55 percent of Tennesseans to have a degree or credential is an important piece of the puzzle, However, even if every high school student who graduates between now and 2025 goes on to a postsecondary institution and graduates, our state won’t reach that goal. It is going to take more. Certainly, the importance of adult learners has gained new visibility with the leadership of the Governor and the General Assembly prioritizing education in our community, and investing in the education of adults, many of whom are already working in Middle Tennessee, our workforce will be better equipped to meet the needs of current employers by creating a pipeline of qualified workers for future workforce needs.

Employers have many opportunities to support employees as they return to school to complete a high-level credential or associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Here are a few ways employers can become engaged in the Tennessee Reconnect program:

  1. Adjust/update your reimbursement policies. Many employees are eligible to receive free tuition through one of Tennessee’s Reconnect Grant programs. If your employees qualify for free tuition, we encourage you to adjust your reimbursement programs to reflect that cost savings, and consider paying for books, course fees, or online fees. This will help your workforce stay engaged in education.
  2. Send key staff to Reconnect Ambassador Training. This “Pre-Advisement” role is tailor-made for HR professionals. The short, half-day sessions prepare Reconnect Ambassadors to serve as a resource and then refer employees on for advising services with one of our Reconnect Navigators across Middle Tennessee.
  3. Sponsor a “Reconnect Café” at your location. A Reconnect Navigator comes on-site at a time convenient for your workforce, and provides free advisement services to your employees. This is a convenient way to get your employees thinking about returning to, or beginning, a postsecondary program.
  4. Survey your workforce. The Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community has a survey that is ready to deploy to your workforce that will tell you exactly what your employees need to complete a degree, in their words, as well as provide you with data around the desire to complete a postsecondary degree program. The survey is deployed by you, and the data collected by The Research Center at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. A comprehensive results report will be provided to you.

The new legislation, signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam in May, will make free community college available to any adult in Tennessee who wishes to begin or complete and associate’s degree. Combined with the Reconnect Grants already available at Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, it just became easier for everyone in our state to create a path to postsecondary program completion. To learn how your organization can help your workforce “Reconnect to Education,” email Laura Ward at, or visit the website at The Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community serves adults in Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson, Sumner, Rutherford, Williamson, and Wilson Counties.

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