New programs help adult students attend Vol State Community College

Staff Reports • Updated Sep 14, 2017 at 5:00 PM

New programs at Volunteer State Community College can help adult students who want to earn a college degree. 

There is an evaluation of life experience called a prior learning assessment.  It’s designed to help students speed up their steps toward a college degree by evaluating the student’s life experiences for possible college credit. 

Vol State also offers academic fresh start. This is an opportunity to disregard previous poor grades that were earned at Vol State. Students can work to earn higher grades and increase their grade point average. 

There is also much excitement about TN Reconnect, the newly approved scholarship program starting in fall 2018 that will provide a tuition-free community college education for most adults in Tennessee. But even with all of the new assistance, there is still the matter of a person making room in their life for college. 

One person that understands that situation is actually the president of Vol State, Jerry Faulkner. He dropped out of college as a junior at the University of Tennessee and spent years doing various jobs.

“I realized that what I was getting out of life was a paycheck and an ulcer,” Faulkner said. “If I was going to have a more meaningful career, I would need a college education.”

And so, just shy of his 30th birthday, Faulkner went back to college. 

“It was very scary. The job I left was pretty good paying. I had a wife and son,” Faulkner said. “We made the decision that I should go to college full time. The anticipation before I got in the class was the scariest part. I had a lot of anxiety because I knew I would be in a classroom with a lot of younger people.”

Despite the fears, academic challenges and the major financial burden of balancing work and school, Faulkner went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and then a doctorate. When asked what advice he gives to adults considering college, Faulkner remembers what he felt as an adult student.

“Don’t let fear hold you back. You can succeed,” Faulkner said. “The likely maturity you gained will make you a better student. Education is a great vehicle to get you where you want to go. The tassel is worth the hassle.”

Vol State encourages adult students to consider returning to college even before the TN Reconnect scholarship program starts in 2018. Adult students may be eligible for Pell grants and Vol State scholarships now. Filling out a FAFSA form is the way to find out what kind of assistance is available. The college offers many evening and online classes and is piloting new classes that may provide an even better fit with adult schedules. 

The office of Veterans Affairs and adult learners provide help for adults in navigating the college process. Academic advisors help students set up a plan for the degree they are seeking. For those still wondering about an academic major, the advising center at Vol State offers a personality inventory that can show the academic areas in which a student might do well.

In the end, it all comes down to graduating with a degree or certificate. There were many adult graduates in the audience at the recent Vol State spring commencement ceremony.

“I have new best friends and none of them are over 24 years old,” said Les Lyle, of Lebanon. “The physical therapist assistant program has opened doors for me. I have several job opportunities available to me now.”

Vol State has a web page especially designed for adult students. They’re encouraged to visit volstate.edu/adult. Then students can use the website to explore the more than 90 degree programs the college offers. Help is also available on the phone at 615-230-3688 and in-person at the Vol State campus locations in Gallatin, Springfield, Cookeville and Livingston.

Volunteer State Community College has more than 90 programs of study and offers two-year degrees, certificates and paths to university transfer. Continuing education and workforce development extend the college mission to the entire community. For more information, visit volstate.edu.

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