Dr. Allana Hamilton, JSCC president, welcomed Dr. Keith Carver, president of the University of Tennessee at Martin (UTM), Dr. Flora Tydings, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and Mr. Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to the Jackson State Community College campus on Wednesday, August 23. The officials came together to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to make UTM the first four-year public university in Tennessee to formalize an extension of the Tennessee Promise scholarship program.
UT Martin offers three tiers of the newly formed Elam Transfer Promise scholarships for those who qualify with the goal to benefit more transfer students. The scholarships are named for the late Kathleen and Tom Elam, of Union City, longtime UT Martin and University of Tennessee supporters.
The Tennessee Promise is both a scholarship and mentoring program focused on increasing the number of students that attend and complete college in Tennessee. The program covers tuition and mandatory fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship or the Tennessee Student Assistance Award. Students can use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institution offering an associate degree program.
Hamilton told those attending the event that approximately half of Jackson State students plan to transfer to a four-year college or university. “So, here at Jackson State, we view that as our responsibility to help develop pathways, to help develop seamless transitions from Jackson State to four-year colleges and universities,” she said. “And with our guests today, I’m going to say from Jackson State to UT Martin.”
Krause, founding executive director of the Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55 before his appointment to lead THEC, sees the partnership as a natural extension of the Tennessee Promise. “First and foremost, what’s going to happen today is an opportunity for us to build a bridge in West Tennessee between Jackson State students to UT Martin students,” he said. “If you think back to the original idea behind Tennessee Promise, it was really to change how students thought about their future.” He recognized Jackson State’s success retaining more that 80 percent of Tennessee Promise students who attend the community college.
“I’m excited about what’s going to happen in West Tennessee with these two leaders specifically (Hamilton and Carver) and then with Chancellor Tydings leading at the system level,” Krause said. “What I know from all three of these leaders is this is only about students. That’s it. That’s what they’re about, and that student focus in West Tennessee will be transforming.”
Carver said that the agreement is an extension of a long-standing relationship with Jackson State. “And to be able to really say to all of our partners in the Tennessee Board of Regents, we’re here for you when you want to continue on, and we’re going to provide some financial aid and scholarships to aid you in this journey,” he said.
Tydings credited Hamilton and Carver for their leadership in being the first to formally connect the Tennessee Promise to a four-year public university. “They took the initiative to put this down in a formal process where we had a lot of students that have taken part in the transfer before,” she said. “This formalization of it (the process) will now help students to understand the (transfer) pathway, not just for Jackson State, but for all of our 40 institutions across the state of Tennessee.”