Juxtaposing the Drive to 55 to Non-Traditional Student Completions at Community Colleges

Deirdre Michelle Wilson, Tennessee State University


For the purposes of this study, criteria for non-traditional students were: adults ages 25 and older, race/ethnicity, gender, entry date or transfer to a community college in Middle Tennessee during fall 2015 through summer 2021, and Pell/Grant eligibility. The problem is that non-traditional students have lower completions than traditional students. Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the Drive to 55 Initiative, also called the Tennessee Reconnect Grant (TN Reconnect) that proposed the first program in the nation that allowed adults without a postsecondary credential to be able to obtain one for free. This intervention became effective fall 2018. As such, the focus of this study was to assess the likelihood that more non-traditional students enrolled at community colleges in Middle Tennessee would complete either a certificate or associates degree within three years after TN Reconnect intervened (experimental group) as compared to non-traditional students that graduated three years before TN Reconnect intervened (control group). The research involved a quasi-experimental design that used generalized linear models on a year-group comparison from 54,692 random samples of secondary data from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's longitudinal database. Findings were that the number of completions in the experimental group were higher than in the control group. The strongest predictors of completions were term hours and entry type; Pell Grant eligibility was not statistically significant to completions.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Education|Educational tests & measurements|Community college education

Recommended Citation

Deirdre Michelle Wilson, "Juxtaposing the Drive to 55 to Non-Traditional Student Completions at Community Colleges" (2024). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI31140038.