West Tennessee coming together to provide college scholarship money - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

West Tennessee coming together to provide college scholarship money

By Justin Hanson - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

COVINGTON, TN (WMC-TV) - Leaders from across West Tennessee are coming together to help students continue their education past high school, all in an effort to boost the local workforce by providing college scholarship money.  

The Southwest Tennessee Educational Pathways program, or STEP, will help students in ten West Tennessee counties.  Those counties include Tipton, Lauderdale, Chester, Decatur, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, and McNairy.

"If we're not prepared to handle those high technology jobs, our kids are not going to be ready to go in those jobs and be sustained," said Hardeman County Mayor Willie Spencer.

The program will not only provide tuition dollars to students going to a community college or technical school, but also will provide students with mentors to help guide them through the college admission process.

"In Tennessee for example, the number of folks who are 25 years of age and older who have a bachelors degree or higher is 21 percent.  The national average is 28 percent. In Tipton County, its 14 percent," said Tipton County Mayor Jeff Huffman.

"We have a tremendous number of people in this area who probably are 1st generations college goers," added Joe Barker with the Southwest Tennessee Development District.

STEP marries infrastructure with human capital.  By having an educated workforce, leaders in the West Tennessee area say they can better market industrial property like the mega site in Haywood county. 

 "We've got a Rolls Royce property without an engine...what this program is assembling will allow the mega site to run," Barker said.

Scholarship dollars will be determined on a county-by-county basis.  The "last dollar" scholarships, as they are called, will fill the tuition gaps for students after all other sources of financial aid have been accessed.

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