Roane State celebrates new, larger Fentress County campus

Roane State President Chris Whaley addresses the guests at the Roane State Fentress campus open house. (Photo: Roane State)

CLARKRANGE – College administrators, elected officials, residents and students recently celebrated the opening of the relocated Roane State campus in Fentress County, and it has already had an impact on enrollment.

“This facility is amazing,” campus director Tinisha Key said shortly before the October 9 ribbon-cutting and open house. “It opens the door to a lot more educational opportunities.”

Key said enrollment jumped more than 30% after the renovated facility, located in a former commercial business, opened for the fall semester in August. Nearly 80 students are currently enrolled in classes there.

Roane State President Dr. Chris Whaley said the new campus was made possible by the Tennessee Board of Regents’ “unwavering commitment to providing the highest quality teaching and learning environment for our students and faculty and by the support of this community.”

“Reaching a milestone like this can only be achieved through incredible teamwork,” he said.

“This represents a tremendous step forward for what Roane State can do for the students of Fentress County,” State Senator Ken Yager said. He predicted a sizable increase in the number of adult residents taking advantage of the Tennessee Reconnect scholarship program.

The community college’s presence in Fentress County had earlier grown from Roane State educators offering classes in high schools, to five portable classrooms across from the Alvin C. York Institute, to the 3,000-square-foot former ROTC Building at the institute. That remodeled building had three classrooms.

The new facility in Clarkrange is nearly three times larger and features six classrooms, all offering “Zoom” enabled technology. “This allows us to expand course offerings to students in Fentress County without them traveling long distances to another campus,” Whaley said. “This is the only [Roane State] location that is completely Zoom enabled. Roane State has always been on the forefront of integrating education and technology.”

Key said the new computer lab nearly doubles the number of computers available to students. The facility also features five offices, a student lounge, study spaces, room for proctored testing and other amenities.

Businessman and Roane State Foundation member Philip Hall owns the building and made it available to the college. He even helped with its renovation to keep costs down, Whaley said.

“Today is a starting point for us as a community, and we are so happy we were able to contribute,” Hall told the crowd. He said long-range plans call for Roane State and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to consolidate on a new campus near Jamestown.

Among the attendees at the open house were Roane State nursing program students Madyson Ipock of Jamestown and Kailee Laffrey of Crossville. They said they meet at the new campus to study. “We love it here,” Ipock said. “It’s a really good facility,” Laffrey added.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu or call (865) 882-4554.

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.

Michelle Price is the managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal and can be reached via email. Send an email.

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