All in the family

By Eric Melcher

A College Promise program for adults is helping a family reach their career goals together.

Tuition-free community college, with Tennessee Reconnect, is inspiring thousands of adults across the state to attend college this fall. Volunteer State Community College has nearly 1,000 new eligible applicants so far.

But it isn’t just individuals signing up. Couples, and even whole families, are taking the opportunity to earn a college degree. Jim and Kim Bare of Hickman are attending Vol State this fall with their daughter Jessica and son-in-law Michael. Jim accompanied Jessica and Kim to the Vol State campus in Gallatin for a TN Reconnect help session.

“Once we sat down with the Vol State folks I got bit by the bug,” Jim said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to go back to school. I’ve been to college three times. I always had an excuse before to stop going. Now I have a support system.”

“I have always worked for lawyers,” Kim said. “I love what I do as a legal assistant. I want to be a lawyer. Vol State has been such a wonderful community. They were so good to us when we came up and got everything done.”

Daughter Jessica Austin needs just a few credits to graduate. “She never had a chance to finish college — you know, life and kids,” Kim said. Michael Austin is a manager with a staffing agency. “He has flown up the corporate ladder, but he’s nearing that glass ceiling. He needs a degree to keep advancing in his career.”

TN Reconnect provides tuition-free classes for Tennessee adults who don’t already have a college degree.

Jim and Kim Bare work full time so they plan to take many online classes or even hybrid classes which combine online work with some course meetings. Jim and Kim are both scheduled to take Math 1010. They figure the more classes they take together, the easier it will be to find a study partner.

“My kids say, ‘We’re going to be on you dad.’ They’re so proud that I went back to school. From age four to 65 there are nine people in this family who will be getting some sort of education at the same time,” Jim said. Their sons Christian and Stephen both attended Vol State. Stephen graduated last May and Christian graduated from TN Tech.

This piece originally appeared here

Eric Melcher

is coordinator of public relations and marketing at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tennessee.

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