Local officials and education administrators met on Tuesday to announce a new partnership to increase access to higher education opportunities in Sevier County.
The Sevier County School System, Walters State Community College, East Tennessee State University and Tennessee College of Applied Technology have joined together in the Sevier County Partners in Progress Education Program to help citizens earn associate degrees at WSCC, TCAT certifications and diplomas, and 4-year degrees from ETSU.
Dr. Brian Noland, president of ETSU, stated, “ETSU has partnered with the leaders of Sevier County for the past several years to expand educational opportunities to the residents of this region, and this fall, we will move the needle even further through the opening of our ETSU at Sevierville center.”
The former Mountain National Bank building purchased by Sevier County and the City of Sevierville will be home to ETSU and TCAT classes beginning this fall. The 45,000 sq. ft. facility is located at 2025 Red Bank Road in Sevierville.
The Partners in Progress Education Program was started in 2002 with funding from Sevier County and the cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg as a last dollar scholarship to help Sevier County high school graduates attend Walters State Community College and since its inception, provided more than $1.2 million in scholarships to aid over 1,500 students.
“Those involved in establishing and leading Partners in Progress have led the state in expanding access to college for all high school graduates. Sevier County students and Walters State Community College were the recipients of this foresight more than a decade before Tennessee Promise became a reality,” said Dr. Wade McCamey, president of Walters State Community College. “We are grateful to the governmental entities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Sevier County for their willingness to support higher education in such a visionary manner.”
Because the state’s Tennessee Promise Program is now funding two years of tuition costs for students at community colleges such as Walters State and technical facilities such as Tennessee College of Applied Technology, the Partners in Progress Education Program is evolving to shift those dollars to fund a program for students to achieve a 4-year degree.
“By combining the expertise of three Tennessee Board of Regents’ institutions, Sevier County is making history in offering an unparalleled variety of opportunities to its current high school graduates,” said Jerry Patton, director of Morristown TCAT.
The program will give high school students the opportunity to graduate from East Tennessee State University with a four-year degree in just 3 years by providing scholarship dollars, along with the Hope scholarship and scholarship dollars from the Sevier County School System, to pay for tuition of up to eight dual enrollment classes taught by Walters State. Students completing eight dual enrollment classes upon graduation from high school could enter Walters State as a sophomore, leaving only 3 years until they could graduate from East Tennessee State University.
Tennessee Promise will pay tuition costs for Walters State and upon graduation, a student will have access of up to $2,000 per semester from the Partners in Progress Scholarship for up to four semesters at the Sevier County campus of East Tennessee State University.
The combined scholarships from the Sevier County School System, Tennessee Promise, Hope Scholarship, institutional scholarships and Partners in Progress, a Sevier County student will have the opportunity to graduate with a 4-year degree from East Tennessee State University with little or no tuition cost. Students will pay for books and various other fees required by the colleges.
“What we are announcing today does not exist in many places in this country,” said Noland. “The ability for an individual to realize their dreams in one facility, one venue. Then to have, through the spirit of partnership, the opportunity to realize those dreams at little or no cost does not exist many places.”
East Tennessee State University will offer the following degrees in Sevier County beginning in the fall of 2016:
- B.B.A. in Business Management
- B.B.A. in Marketing Management
- B.S. in Early Childhood Education
- B.S. in K-6 Education
- B.S. in Special Education
- B.S. in Psychology
- B.S. in Human Services
- B.S. in Social Work
- RN-BSN in Nursing
- B.S. in Radiography
- B.A.S. – Bachelor in Applied Science
Tennessee College of Applied Technology Programs available Fall 2016 at the Sevierville campus:
- Licensed Practical Nursing LPN
- Computer Information Technology
A new website www.sevierpip.com, expected to be launched in late spring, will guide students and parents through the dual enrollment registration process. High school guidance counselors can provide more information.
“The Sevier County Economic Development Council is establishing the Sevier County Partners in Progress Education Program Foundation whose main mission will be to encourage and generate financial support for educational improvements in Sevier County and to establish a Sevier County Partners in Progress Education Scholarship for our residents.” Director Allen Newton said. He thanked Linda Ogle for being a founding contributor to the foundation with what he called a “very significant gift.”
Patton also took the opportunity to announce the expansion of a TCAT program using LEAP Grant funds to supply equipment for CTE technical classrooms in high schools of Sevier, Cocke and Geene counties.