KNOXVILLE—Low-income adults in Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina’s rural areas will now have greater access to postsecondary education, thanks to a federal grant recently awarded to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
UT’s Educational Opportunity Center has received a five-year, $2.3 million competitive grant from the US Department of Education. The center is housed in UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.
The funds will enable the center to provide counseling and information on college admissions to more than 1,500 adults annually—most of whom would be first-generation college students—in twenty-seven counties in East Tennessee, North Georgia, and Western North Carolina. The center also serves some individuals still in high school and dropouts. The goal is to increase the number of adults in postsecondary education institutions.
It also will offer services to improve participants’ financial and economic literacy. The center will advise them on financial aid options, including basic financial planning skills, and assist in the application process.
“I believe that education is the answer to improving their life circumstances,” said Vee McGahey, project director of the center, who was part of the first generation in her family to attend college. “There are a lot of resources for low-income students, but they just don’t know what they are.”
The center links adult students to those resources, she added, and “removes as many barriers as possible to postsecondary education—financial being the major one.”
Vee works with Ernest W. Brewer, director of UT’s College Access and Persistence Services (CAPS) Outreach Center, who wrote the federal grant application. The CAPS Center is in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies within UT’s College of Education.
The Educational Opportunity Center is partnering with agencies in the counties served, including community colleges, technical institutes, career centers, and adult education programs to identify potential students and connect them with needed services.
The center is serving adults in the following counties:
Tennessee: Anderson, Bradley, Blount, Campbell, Cumberland, Knox, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Morgan, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union
Georgia: Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Rabun, Towns, and Union
North Carolina: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain
There are about 271,400 low-income people living in the target areas. Several of the counties have poverty rates twice the national rate. About 80 percent of them have unemployment rates higher than the national average. Of the target population 25 years and older, 84 percent have not graduated from college.
Projections are that by 2018, more than 50 percent of new jobs will require postsecondary credentials and many low-skilled workers in the target areas are being left behind.
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