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New programs help adult students attend Vol State

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Lebanon's Les Lyle came to Vol State after a layoff. He had been with the same company for 35 years. He now has an associate of applied science degree. SUBMITTED

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 (PLA). The PLA is designed to help students speed up their steps towards a college degree by evaluating the student's life experiences for possible college credit. Vol State also offers Academic Fresh Start - an opportunity to disregard previous poor grades that were earned at Vol State. Students can work to earn higher grades and increased the grade-point average (GPA). 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 who understands that situation is actually the president of Vol State, Jerry Faulkner. He dropped out of college as a junior at UT Knoxville 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. 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 Ph.D. 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. The likely maturity you gained will make you a better student," he said. "Education is a great vehicle to get you where you want to go. The tassel is worth the hassle."

Vol State is encouraging adult students to consider returning to college even before the TN Reconnect scholarship program starts next year. Adult students may be eligible for Pell Grants and Vol State scholarships now. Filling out the 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 provides 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 Lebanon's Les Lyle. "The PTA (Physical Therapist Assistant) program has opened doors for me. I have several job opportunities available to me now."

To learn more, visit www.volstate.edu/adult.

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adult degree, adult education, college, education, Tennessee Reconnect, TN Reconnect, Volunteer State Community College
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