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Chattanooga State Offers New Honors College

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Chattanooga State Community College plans to launch a pilot honors college that will allow some students the chance to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from a private school.

The pilot program is set to begin in the fall with 16 students, who will participate part time.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the goal is to have the program fully operational by the fall of 2013. It will be open to students who have ACT scores of at least 27 and a grade point average of 3.6.

So far, Chattanooga State has partnered with three schools to offer the four-year degrees Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee and Berry and Morehouse colleges in Georgia.

School officials are continuing discussions with institutions, including Vanderbilt and Belmont universities.

“We have many people in our community who are the first of their family who aspire to go to college, and they might be college ready from point of view from an ACT or SAT score, but do they really know this huge cultural change that’s going to occur when they go to an elite school?” asked James Catanzaro, president at Chattanooga State.

“Our idea is to get them ready and offer them two years of their education here, which would be every bit an equal to what they would expect at Vanderbilt, Emory, Sewanee or the University of Virginia, for that matter,” he said. “While they are here, we would give them special tutors and coaches to make sure they can transition effectively, so, when they do end up as juniors, they have a high probability of success.”

Honors programs have been increasing at community colleges over the last decade, but honor colleges are relatively new, said Rod Risley, executive director of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society that serves community colleges around the nation.

Risley said the increasing number of first-time college students in community colleges is driving the change.

“Many community colleges experienced dramatic surges in increases in enrollment the last four or five years, which is not unusual in an economic decline, but, when you desegregate the data, what comprises this increase is different this time,” he said. “The surge is made up primarily of first-time traditional-age freshmen. Generally it would be returning adults.”

Holly Reeve, associate vice president of development at Chattanooga State, said the school needs to raise $70,000 for the pilot program and $192,000 a year to sustain the full-time program to help offset the costs of scholarships and enrichment opportunities.

“The only way of getting it off the ground is to run a sustainable fund,” Reeve said. “Tuition alone will not pay for it.”

Catanzaro said he thinks the community will help sustain the program.

“There’s a clear recognition on the part of individuals and businesses in our community that we have to educate at a high level many more young citizens than we have,” he said. “In this case there is not going to be any B’s or C’s in this program; you have to master the subject.”

Larry Jones, associate dean at Sewanee, said the school is looking forward to working with Chattanooga State.

“The idea we might have additional students or reaching a student population we wouldn’t have been reaching otherwise seems great to us,” he said.

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