Adult Promise is ‘last dollar’ scholarship

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG  Banner Staff Writer
Posted 5/9/15

Cleveland State Community College has been promoting a new scholarship for students who do not qualify for the statewide Tennessee Promise program, which welcomes its first class this fall.

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Adult Promise is ‘last dollar’ scholarship

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Cleveland State Community College has been promoting a new scholarship for students who do not qualify for the statewide Tennessee Promise program, which welcomes its first class this fall.

The college’s new Adult Promise scholarship is expected to provide funding for students who want to attend college, but do not meet all the Tennessee Promise requirements.

“This is a great example of us anticipating the changes that are happening,” Cleveland State President Dr. Bill Seymour said.

Tennessee Promise is a new state program that provides last-dollar funding for students wishing to study at community colleges, the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology or other eligible Tennessee colleges that offer associate’s degrees.

Since the first cohort of students met their application deadline in the fall of 2014, they have been following the necessary steps to be part of the program’s inaugural year starting this fall.

While the Tennessee Promise program has given students statewide the promise of money to attend college, it does have an eligibility requirement that limits who can take part. Only recent high school graduates can participate, and the high school Class of 2015 had to agree to start college in the fall of 2015.

“Adult students tend not to have the same access to federal and state aid,” Seymour said. “But, for many reasons, they’re a great investment.” 

While anyone 18 or older is by law an adult, Cleveland State has routinely used the term “adult students” to refer to those above 25, those beyond the typical age for an undergraduate student, Seymour said.

That demographic makes up only between 33 and 35 percent of the current student body. Still, he said those students make up “a vast majority” of Cleveland State’s graduates each year.

The older students taking up more seats at graduation could be due to their maturity or simply their determination to stay in school, Seymour said.

No matter why, he said it is a positive thing for a community college to have a student population that includes people of all ages — not just those who just finished high school.

The Adult Promise scholarship, which people can apply for now, is for adults 19 or older who do not qualify for the Tennessee Promise program.

According to information from Cleveland State’s admissions office, an Adult Promise scholarship recipient must also have not been enrolled in college for the past three years or have earned an associate’s degree or higher.

Seymour said the scholarship is a good fit for someone who may be looking to go back to school after spending years away or to earn a degree to help improve their opportunities for career advancement.

“We’re trying to get the word out that this is a great opportunity,” Seymour said.

The Tennessee Promise program is funded by an endowment set up using profits from the Tennessee Lottery, but the local college drew from its own budget and fundraising foundation to make Adult Promise possible.

Because Tennessee Promise is providing funding to students who might have normally received scholarships from the Cleveland State Community College Foundation, the foundation was able to reallocate some scholarship funds.

Seymour said some foundation funds and some funds from the college’s institutional budget were put together to form what amounted to a $135,000 budget for Adult Promise’s first year.

“That’s a pretty significant amount,” Seymour said.

The Adult Promise scholarship is designed to be “last dollar,” meaning it is to cover what is left over after students have applied to the college and worked with the financial aid office to see if they qualify for any other scholarships or grants first.

A student who has received other scholarships could potentially end up with a gap in funding he or she would normally have to pay out of pocket or with student loans. A “last dollar” scholarship is meant to cover those remaining dollars.

Seymour estimated the average gap for an Adult Promise student will be about $500.

Though he stressed the college hopes to raise more money for scholarships through its foundation, the money it has now could help many students.

Based on his estimated average, if each Adult Promise scholarship totaled $500 exactly, the funds the college has available now could help 270 students.

In addition to Tennessee Promise, the state has more recently launched a program called Tennessee Reconnect that allows adult students to receive extra funding to study at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology.

While Tennessee Reconnect and Cleveland State’s Adult Promise target part of the same age group, Seymour said the biggest difference is that Cleveland State’s scholarship allows adult students to pursue associate’s degrees in a larger variety of subject areas.

However, the college president also stressed the state’s efforts to promote college education do mean good things for the state’s educational climate — and may even serve as an example for other states.

“Every state in the country is looking at Tennessee and what we’re doing,” Seymour said.

As it prepares for its new class of Tennessee Promise students this fall, Cleveland State is also hoping to attract new students with Adult Promise.

While no enrollment numbers are final, Seymour said the college has had “a huge surge” of early applications for this fall because of Tennessee Promise. Still, he said it remains to be seen if all who apply will actually attend in August.

The deadline to apply to the college and be considered for the Adult Promise scholarship is Monday, June 1.

For more information, visit http://www.clevelandstatecc.edu or call 423-472-7141.

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