Donna Cox of Morristown graduated in May at the top of Walters State’s Physical Therapist Assistant Class. When she enrolled as part of the College Express program three years ago, she didn’t think that would be the case.
“When I came back to Walters State, I was really nervous. I had not been in school for several years. I also knew I would be working and taking care of my family,” Cox said.
“College Express allows students to take classes one night a week, two nights when a class has a lab. I loved it. If I had a taken a full schedule of classes in the beginning, I might have been overwhelmed,” she added.
The program is one of several “fast-track” promoted by The Tennessee Board of Regents’ “Finish Faster” initiative to provide delivery methods to college students that will enable them to complete degrees on time or even earlier. Tennessee Board of Regents is holding its quarterly meeting on the Morristown campus Thursday and Friday.
The “Finish Faster” initiative was developed following recommendations from the Complete College American report. The program also supports state-wide goals to raise the number of Tennesseans college degrees. Despite the need for a highly educated workforce in today’s economy, less than 20 percent of Tennesseans between the ages of 25 and 34 currently hold any sort of post-secondary degree.
College Express is designed specifically for working adults, according to Dr. Amy Ross, dean of distance education. The program has an 84 percent completion rate.
“Students who choose ‘College Express’ move through the program as a group, learning and studying together. Students know a specific person at the college to contact if assistance is needed,” said Ross.
Cox completed College Express for Pre-Allied Health Majors, a certificate program. She was then accepted into the college’s competitive Physical Therapist Assistant Program. Other College Express cohorts also focus on early childhood education, business general studies and clean energy technology. The College Express Teacher Track, which leads to the Associate of Science in Teaching degree, is offered this fall at the college’s Claiborne County Campus.
“Our main goal with College Express is to better serve the adult student and help them get through our programs faster,” said Dr. Amy Ross, dean of distance education.
“Students can plan ahead, knowing what their schedule will be. Students also connect to each other as a cohort. People go through the program together and, in addition to becoming friends, they’re a support system for each other,” Ross added.
Cox was enrolled in the one-year program College Express for Allied Health Majors. The program includes all of the classes needed as pre-requisites to enter the nursing, respiratory therapy and pre-physical therapist assistant programs. The track also meets the degree requirements for working professionals who have already earned certificates in paramedic, EMT, basic law enforcement and other public safety fields.
The program also considers previous college credit. Cox, for example, had taken several classes a few years before she heard about College Express. When those classes came in the rotation, she just took a break. Most classes in the program transfer, as well.
The programs start in mid-August, so prospective students are encouraged to enroll now. For more information, contact the college’s Office of Distance Education at (423) 585-6899.
CUTLINE: Donna Cox enjoyed the years she dedicated to her family and the family business, Cox Insurance. When the time was right for college, she made a smooth transition through Walters State’s College Express. Cox graduated at the top of the 2013 Physical Therapist Assistant Program in May.