Randy Smith will be in his mid-40s when he finishes his physical therapist assistant degree at Jackson State Community College in May 2019. Inspired by the physical therapists who worked with his young daughter, Smith decided to go to college and get a degree. He had not been in a classroom since he graduated high school.
Smith is one of many Tennessee adult learners who are benefitting from Tennessee Reconnect, a statewide program that encourages adults to get a post-secondary college degree or certification. The program pays the tuition for qualifying adults who attend a state community college or state college of applied technology and a portion of the expenses at four-year universities.
Depending on their majors, most Tennessee Reconnect students at Jackson State have only the cost of books and fees. “I love it,” Smith said about Tennessee Reconnect. “I’ve got friends I’m pushing to look into it.”
Jackson State is a good choice for Tennessee Reconnect students, said Dr. Tom Pigg, Jackson State’s Dean of Computer Information Technology and Health Sciences. “JSCC offers a wide variety of certificate programs and two-year associate degrees that lead to jobs. Our college has gained a great reputation in the West Tennessee area that provides a level of confidence in the quality of our graduates.”
Most jobs, he explained, require employees to have at least an applied associate degree. “Many of our selective healthcare programs require completion of an AAS degree in order to be licensed. Students who complete these programs are considered job ready.”
The many two-year degree programs at Jackson State include nursing, radiography, EMT, respiratory care, medical lab technician, computer networking, computer programming and cyber defense, physical therapist assistant, occupational therapy assistant, criminal justice, business, advanced manufacturing and fire science.
“You can find a lot of becauses and reasons why you can’t go back to college,” Smith said. “Tennessee Reconnect takes away 95 percent of them.”