Jackson State Community College will open an educational site in Paris, bringing new academic opportunities to an underserved area of the state. Classes will start at the beginning of the spring semester.
The location will allow residents in rural Northwest Tennessee to take advantage of Tennessee Promise — a last-dollar scholarship program for community colleges and colleges of applied technology — without driving to Jackson. Students will be able to take college courses in high school through dual enrollment or earn an associate degree and join the workforce or transition into a four-year university.
“It’s really exciting for the community to have a two-year college presence,” said Paris Mayor Carlton Gerrell said. “This makes us a more complete community, and it’s going to enhance our economic impact by providing opportunities for people to get jobs and make the community better.”
Jackson State will occupy five rooms in the Central Community Service Center at 55 Jones Bend Road. The facility was built in 1958 to serve African-American high school students before desegregation. It has since been converted into a building that houses programs such as the Office On Aging, Adult Learning Center and the R.E.A.L. Hope Youth Center.
“We’re there because the city of Paris and Henry County invited us to be there, and they’ve been able to provide us with the space that we need to teach,” said Dr. Larry Bailey, vice president of Academic Affairs for Jackson State.
The college expects 50 to 75 students the first semester and plans to grow the enrollment to as many 200. “Our hope is that this is going to become a full accredited degree center for Jackson State in the next few years.”
Specific classes will be determined by need, but students will be able to take advantage of as many as eight general courses that span Jackson State’s educational spectrum, including business, math, humanities, social/behavioral sciences, and science. The facility has two large classrooms that will be used for traditional face-to-face teaching.
“We plan to offer as many on-ground classes as we can,” Bailey said.
Students will also be able to take upper-level courses with distance learning software in three smaller rooms in the facility that accommodate a smaller class size. Jackson State has satellite campuses in Lexington, Humboldt and Savannah, and students from each location, including Paris, can combine to take the same class through distance learning.
Similar to Jackson State’s other locations, the Paris location will focus on nontraditional students — people who go back to school to start a new career or need additional training to advance into a higher-paying job — in addition to the traditional college-age students. The college will work with area employers to create courses to meet the needs of the Henry County workforce.
The facility is a good fit for Jackson State, Bailey said. The classrooms are flexible enough to be used for a variety of courses, and the school has room to expand. It’s also on the same wing as the Adult Learning Center.
“It will help us recruit students and give them a chance to see that they have an opportunity to continue their education in the same building that they get their GED,” Bailey said. “That’s something we see as a real positive.”
Bringing Jackson State to Paris has been a joint effort between the city and county with support from community organizations such as the Central High School Alumni Association.
“It’s extremely important to their community because Paris is a growing area, and this is vital to their economic development,” Bailey said. “We are very appreciative of the work by City Mayor Carlton Gerrell and County Mayor Brent Greer to make this become a reality. And we’re very grateful for all of the other parties who have supported it.”