Elam Transfer Promise Benefits Transfer Students Attending UT Martin

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.”

JSCC receives grant to increase student success

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) announced the award of over $750,000 to three community colleges and one university. Jackson State Community College was awarded $184,543 to pursue its project to increase student success.

The institutions funded by the grant created proposals for how they would go about increasing student success and outcomes. Activities include increased advising and academic coaching, increased data analysis around student success, and guided student pathways based on academic and career goals.

According to Mike Krause, THEC executive director, the governor’s Drive to 55 initiative is the driving force behind the push for student success. “These grants allow institutions to develop new services entirely focused on students excelling academically and gaining the skills and credentials necessary to succeed in the workforce,” Krause said.

Jackson State received $184,543 for its project, Pathways to Success. According to Brian Gann, VP of student services, JSCC will develop individualized digital pathways to degrees for students that provide a clear roadmap to graduation and will allow a student and the institution to see if that student is getting off track. Gann states that, “a lack of focus and direction for a new student often leads to frustration and the student either delaying or not attaining their educational objective.”

To help keep students on track, JSCC plans to implement completion coaches that will serve as wraparound support to students, connecting students to academic support and student support resources on and off campus as needed. They plan to track and guide students along the pathway to progression metrics and ultimately degree attainment.

A special initiative for summer Pell grant usage will be launched to encourage continuous enrollment toward degree, helping students to maintain momentum and move forward on their plan. Targeted communication to students who complete progression metrics will help keep students aware of their progress on their roadmap and encourage them to reach the next progression point.

“We are excited and honored to receive this funding to help our students be more successful,” said Gann. “There has been a very intentional effort to bolster student success at Jackson State. This grant will go a long way in helping us to better achieve that goal.”