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Haslam scholarship pitch could mean better pay, better life

By Cindy Simpson

For Carol Davis, it’s never too late to continue education.


That is why Davis, who has raised her children as a working mom, hopes to finally attain that associates or bachelors degree thanks to Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to offer last dollar scholarships to adult students so they can attend community college for free.

“I actually want to go back in business administration. My goal is to go back for a bachelor’s degree or associate’s. I think it would better my pay,” said Davis.

“I am 53 so that is why I was looking into the Reconnect Program.”

Davis commutes each day to Knoxville to work in an accounting firm. She enjoys her work doing payroll, benefits, accounts payable and accounts receivable, but she’s not a certified public accountant.

While becoming an accountant is not her end game, she knows a degree may help her with pay.

“My goal is to better myself and make more money,” she said.

Davis has had some post-secondary education, including a certificate in medical transcription from South College in Knoxville.

The mother of two, a now 28-year-old daughter and 32-year-old son, juggled working full time while raising a family, going back to South College when her daughter was in ninth grade.

She left her work in medical transcription to help her now ex-husband in his business office, doing payroll for 11 of his Ihop Restaurants.

While she went to college at a later age, she said she didn’t have a good direction. She believes now she is poised to benefit from a program like Reconnect Tennessee.

“Reconnect just interested me. I hope it will take me two years,” said Davis.

She’d always planned to continue her education, but in her 20s she began working part time to enjoy motherhood with her two then-young children.

“I was working part time in and out of jobs so I could pick them up from school, be with them as much as I could,” said Davis.

While Davis may benefit from the new proposal for Tennessee Reconnect, others have already benefitted from the existing program that provided last dollar scholarships to Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

Two of those are Angela Lloyd, who is studying administrative office technology, and Richard Owens, who is studying machine tool technology.

“The Reconnect really helped or I would not be able to go to school period,” said Lloyd.

She chose the TCAT because she needed something that would allow her to schedule around work and her school age child. She works as needed at Methodist Medical Center as a certified pharmacy technician.

“I had started to go to school several times but was not doing it at the time. God opened up the door to come,” said Lloyd.

Her chosen path, including going into the coding and billing side of her program, will allow her to remain in her employment.

“I’m going into coding and billing. I can even work from home which will be beneficial with having a school age child,” she said.

Owens worked for years constructing and doing other work on cell phone towers for companies like Verizon Wireless. However, as technology advanced there was no longer a need to build as many towers or add lines, eliminating his job.

Now instead of new lines and antennae to add capacity they add additional computer software and new boards, said Owens.

“I went 16 months without work. I just kept hitting brick walls. It (coming back to school) is a reason to get up in the morning,” said Owens.

It quickly became clear he was going to have to change directions, and he hopes to work with his brother Jim Owens of JR Global Manufacturing.

“I have a very different gameplan (now),” said Owens.

He will got to school a little over a year and then hopes to use the proposed community college scholarship to attend Pellissippi State Community College which has a program that teaches advanced machining using computers.

“What we are learning here is the basics to be able to understand machining. From that I’ll go to the next stage to learn some of the robotics that kicked me out of a job,” said Owens.