Members of Tennessee’s House of Representatives and Senate, who represent Motlow College in their 11-county service area, met at the Moore County campus Friday with area educators, community leaders and other elected officials. The special guests, according to Dr. MaryLou Apple, president of Motlow, were the students in attendance who are immediately and directly affected by legislative decisions.
Dr. Apple introduced Dr. Warren Nichols, the new vice chancellor of community colleges for the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR). Nichols, a graduate of a community college, recently completed his eight-year tenure as president of Volunteer State. He commended the legislators for their work on the Complete College Act of 2010, saying, “That one piece of legislation has had the most dramatic impact on community colleges in the state.”
David Gregory, vice chancellor of administration and facilities management for TBR praised Dr. Apple and recognized former Motlow presidents Dr. Frank Glass and Dr. Sam Ingram who were in attendance. He commended all leaders of Motlow, past and present, for working together to move the college in the right direction. Gregory pointed out that Tennessee is in the national spotlight for its bold advancements in higher education. Two initiatives mentioned were moving remedial education out of the universities and into the community colleges and the Tennessee Transfer Pathways. He also made a plea to the county mayors to help organize GAP or last dollar scholarships for students in their communities. Gregory said approximately one third of the counties in Tenn. are involved in funding the balance of a student’s tuition after the HOPE lottery scholarship.
Before introducing the legislators, Dr. Apple recognized Todd Herzog of Warren County and his determination to help students in his county. The organization created by leaders in their county, Citizens for Progress, works toward a goal of all students in Warren County going to college with tuition paid. Apple discussed the Department of Labor Training Grant and the expansion plans for Motlow’s Smyrna Center.
Senator Jim Tracy, representing district 16 (Moore, Bedford and Rutherford Counties), echoed the idea of Tenn. being in the forefront for higher education and stressed that the primary goal is to educate students and prepare them for the workforce. Rep. Judd Matheny, a Motlow graduate representing district 47 (Coffee and Warren Counties), reported the state is in much better shape than most in the union with its debt under control.
Sen. Eric Stewart, district 14 (Franklin, Coffee, Van Buren and Warren Counties), pointed out the whole nation is at a crossroads with student loan debt surpassing credit card debt. He agreed the legislators were under a magnifying glass and it was time to either ‘talk the talk’ or ‘walk the walk’.
Rep. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville, district 62 (Bedford, Lincoln and Rutherford Counties), said he became a lawmaker to help businesses in the state. He admitted to soon realizing that the best way to help business was to support education. Marsh commended former Gov. Bredesen and current Gov. Haslam for their commitment to education. He also praised Motlow College and Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) for their partnership in creating Middle Tennessee Education Center (MTEC) in Shelbyville.
Rep. Mike Sparks of Smyrna, district 49 (Rutherford County), reflected on his time learning from his mentor, former Smyrna Mayor Bob Spivey. Sparks said Spivey had a grand vision for Smyrna that included having a college campus. He said, “Not only has that dream been realized but now we are waiting for its expansion with over 2,000 students enrolled.”
Sen. Bill Ketron, district 13 (Lincoln and Rutherford Counties), expressed the urgent need that businesses have for trained and skilled workers. He and other legislators recently met with Rutherford County businesses to develop short and long term solutions that include community colleges and technical schools training the workforce. He talked of future plans to test students before high school to better link education and manufacturing. “The goal for all is to keep jobs and employees in our communities,” he said.
After the legislators’ comments, Howard Kirksey, president of Farmers Bank in Lynchburg, announced he and Woodye Bedford, president of the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce, presented a check to the Motlow College Foundation for GAP scholarships. He challenged all those in attendance to go back to their home counties and get involved with funding scholarships to help provide an education for the their youth.
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