Motlow, TCAT leaders tell legislators of schools' successes

Sunday, January 6, 2019
Motlow State Community College president Dr. Michael Torrence welcomes attendees to the annual legislative briefing hosted by the school on behalf of Tennessee Board of Regents.
T-G Photo by John I. Carney

MOORE COUNTY — Four Tennessee Board of Regents schools, including Motlow State Community College and Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Shelbyville, discussed their plans and achievements during the annual legislative breakfast held Friday morning on Motlow’s Moore County campus.

The gathering is a chance for the schools and their parent agency to report to state legislators and community leaders, and also gives the legislators an opportunity to speak.

Dr. Kimberly McCormick, TBR vice chancellor for external affairs, thanked legislators for their support of the TBR system, which includes 40 different institutions with more than 120 teaching sites across the state, working with more than 118,000 students a year.

State Sen. Shane Reeves addresses the crowd as State Rep. Pat Marsh listens.
T-G Photo by John I. Carney

‘Nimble, frugal’

“Our institutions are very nimble,” said McCormick. “...also, they’re very frugal.”

Dr. Michael Torrence, president of Motlow, noted that the fast-growing college is planning to open its new facility in McMinnville this year, focusing on automation and robotics. The facility is scheduled for completion next month, will be used for non-credit courses beginning in May and credit courses beginning in August. Motlow is also adding a third building to its Smyrna campus, which has been the engine for much of the school’s growth in recent years. The 90,000-square-foot building will be completed in November and open for classes in the spring 2020 semester.

Torrence said the success of an institution like Motlow is not just in communicating knowledge but in preparing students for life.

“Students aren’t successful just because you put something in them,” he said. He discussed the work of Motlow’s Crisis Assessment and Risk Evaluation (CARE) team in assisting students. Even the name of the student affairs department has been changed to the student success department, which Torrence said is more representative of its mission.

More students

Motlow’s fall 2018 enrollment of 6,891 represented a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year and a 30.9 percent increase since 2015. The school has the equivalent of 4,621 full-time students.

TCAT-Shelbyville president Laura Monks was once a Motlow student herself, but now she oversees another fast-growing institution within the TBR system. A year from now, TCAT will open its new 31,000-square-foot satellite location in Franklin County. It has classes at its main location on Madison Street in Shelbyville and at Middle Tennessee Education Center on Dover Street; in Lincoln County; in Lewisburg; in Franklin County; and at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. TCAT-S’s fall 2018 enrollment was 649, 31 percent of them from Bedford County.

Monks said TCAT-S students have an 80 percent completion rate and an 89 percent placement rate. Students in the nursing and truck driving programs, the two that work towards a state license, have a 94 percent licensure rate.

Laura Monks, president of Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Shelbyville, discusses TCAT-S’s achievements and plans.
T-G Photo by John I. Carney


Both Torrence and Monks discussed the impact that the Tennessee Reconnect program has had on their programs. Tennessee Reconnect assists adult students with the cost of returning to school mid-career. Monks said 85 percent of students are on some type of student aid. Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise, which is for new high school graduates, are last-dollar assistance programs that kick in if needed after other scholarship or assistance monies have been received.

Monks noted the articulation agreement signed in 2018 between Motlow and TCAT-S which will allow students in administrative technology and information technology programs to easily transfer their TCAT-S credits to Motlow.

Monks said she’s hoping for an increase in funding for the dual enrollement program which allows some students to take TCAT classes while still in high school.

Also speaking Friday were Dr. Warren Laux, president of TCAT-McMinnville, and Dr. Myra West, president of TCAT-Livingston.

Politicians attend

Both State Sen. Shane Reeves and State Rep. Pat Marsh were in attendance Friday. Reeves noted that he’d recently had lunch with Torrence to discuss Motlow’s work. Marsh said he believes incoming Tennessee governor Bill Lee will be supportive of education, as Marsh said Gov. Bill Haslam has been.

State Rep. Mike Sparks of Smyrna, another legislator attending the event, went back to school himself seven or eight years ago, while serving as a Rutherford County commissioner. Now, he’s pursuing a master’s degree.

Bedford County leaders attending Friday’s breakfast included County Mayor Chad Graham, Chamber of Commerce CEO Allen Pitner, and a delegation of students, faculty and staff from TCAT-S.