UPPER CUMBERLAND – It’s a record that Roane State officials hope continues to be broken.
The community college’s ground-breaking Middle College program features the largest-ever graduating class this summer, with 76 members attaining both their high school and Roane State diplomas.
The Middle College Class of 2020 has other inaugural distinctions: It’s the first time that students from Oak Ridge High, Cumberland County High and Stone Memorial High, also in Cumberland County, will graduate from the program.
Also, eight members of the first Mechatronics Middle College class will receive high school diplomas and Roane State associate’s degrees. Mechatronics, the technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering, is now based at Roane State’s location in Clinton but is expanding to include a class at the college’s Roane County campus.
Middle College Director David Lane said Gordon Williams, who directs the mechatronics curriculum, “has been actively promoting the program within the area high schools.”
In the two-year Middle College curriculum, high school juniors start taking college classes in the mornings at Roane State campuses and return to their respective high schools in the afternoons to complete those academic requirements.
When they graduate, they’re eligible to begin their university studies as juniors. Lane said the Middle College graduates “on average attain their bachelor’s degree in about five additional semesters.”
“I am blessed and thankful to work with our Middle College students,” Lane said. “I feel that working through the academic rigor and demands of a college environment prepares our students to succeed at the university and beyond.”
Roane State’s Middle College program began in the fall of 2014, and the first class graduated in the spring of 2016. To date, 224 students have completed the curriculum.
Lane said Middle College students qualify for financial assistance through the Tennessee Middle College Scholarship, which is currently worth $1,000 per semester toward tuition. He said the scholarship is renewable each semester as long as the student maintains a 3.0 grade point average.
Additional funding may also be available depending on need and available funding through the Roane State Foundation, Lane said.
He said that Middle College graduates often receive scholarships at the university level that are more than what they spent to participate in the Roane State program. That’s because “universities often allow our Middle College graduates to qualify for freshman-level scholarships, which are usually larger,” Lane said.
“I know that what we do in Middle College changes lives for the better – today and for generations to come,” Lane said.
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.