From T. R. Williams:
Almost every day our four-year college site comes one step closer to reality.
Last night, County Commissioners approved the purchase of 44.16 acres for the campus, and granted me the authority to execute a contract with the architectural firm that will design the building. I’ve seen a preliminary drawing – you will, too, very soon – and it’s going to be a beautiful facility we will all be very proud of.
Our plans are for construction to begin next year for occupancy in June 2019. In this building, students will take courses leading to an Associate’s degree from Columbia State and classes leading to a Bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech University and other schools that partner with us. Specific programs are still under consideration, and we are in talks with MTSU and Martin Methodist as prospective partners.
Little has been said about plans beyond this building, but our next step is to construct a second facility to house programs from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT). We intend to make this campus a one-stop-shop for postsecondary programs, whether students plan to follow a university or technical path.
Thanks to the state of Tennessee, postsecondary education is financially feasible for everyone. Two programs pay for tuition at community colleges and TCATs: the Tennessee Promise for new high school graduates; and Tennessee Reconnect for adult students.
Financial aid and the convenience of a local campus will prepare our residents for a job market that is eager to receive them. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 99% of the jobs created since 2010 (11.5 million out of 11.6 million) have gone to workers who had at least some post high-school education, and there is a shortage of skilled workers in almost every industry.
Education not only benefits individuals, it benefits communities. A better-educated workforce will help attract good jobs to Lawrence County, and that will improve everyone’s quality of life.
But as we advance, we need to make sure everyone comes along. September 25-30 is Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, a perfect time to talk about adults in Lawrence County who do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
If you know someone in this situation, please tell them to call 762-8705, extension 120, to learn about the free program offered through the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance and our local American Job Center on Mahr Avenue. A quick assessment will determine if they are ready to take the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) or if they need some classroom time first.
Daytime classes are offered on Mondays and Wednesdays and evening classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “It’s like a one-room schoolhouse,” explains program director Ron Stepp. “My students right now range from someone who is learning to read to another doing algebraic functions.”
The HiSET is administered once a month at the local branch of Columbia State, and is free for students who take the pre-test. Both are also offered in Spanish.
A longstanding class at the Lawrence County Jail has also helped many earn their equivalency diplomas. Student numbers are always at capacity, Stepp said, and that is also a good thing for this community. Inmate participation in adult education reduces recidivism by 29%.
I referred to the website EducateAndElevate.org for information as I wrote this article, so I can’t claim credit for that motto. Still, “Educate and Elevate” is a great way to describe our goal. Education will elevate our residents and our county as a whole. With your help, we can accomplish great things.