For 50 years, Roane State Community College has been an economic, cultural and educational leader, partnering with communities, business and government to effect positive changes throughout our region. In my opinion, the founding of Roane State ranks among the three most significant events in recent history, including the Tennessee Valley Authority and Manhattan Project.
During the 1960s, local and state leaders lobbied hard for a community college. After the Roane County Commission acquired property for a site, the legislature approved and classes opened in 1971. The dream of a college education for many local students became a reality. There were no buildings so local schools and churches opened their doors to provide classroom and activity space. Dr. Cuyler Dunbar was selected the first president and the college is now led by Dr. Chris Whaley.
Since its humble beginnings, Roane State Community College has conferred degrees on 23,000 students, helping them on their paths to associate and bachelor’s degrees, meaningful careers, professional growth, personal enrichment and workforce training. Roane State now averages 1,000 graduates per year! Half of those live in the college’s service area and almost all – 90% – call Tennessee home. I applaud the work and effort of the RSCC students and faculty who continue to move our region forward with their commitment to education and success in the workplace.
During its first half century, Roane State has achieved one distinction after another, including becoming a leader in Allied Health Education. This achievement was recently recognized by Governor Bill Lee and the General Assembly with an appropriation of $1 million to plan a new campus in Knox County to accommodate the growth of this successful program.
Roane State is also a statewide leader in its Middle College program. This innovative program, which gives students the opportunity to earn a college degree while in high school, has graduated 300 and continues to garner high marks for its success.
Similarly, the dual enrollment program at Roane State has provided many high school students with a significant head start on their college education. Over 1,000 students have earned credits through this program, giving them the opportunity to complete their degree faster.
In addition, Roane State was first in the state to offer interactive audio-video classes. Distance learning is a very important tool to help non-traditional students complete their degrees and Roane State has led Tennessee’s community colleges in off-campus enrollment.
Helping students complete their degree has been at the forefront of Roane State’s mission. The college offers a quicker road to employment through career and workforce education, both for those just entering the workforce and for individuals wanting or needing a new direction. Part of their success is that they are uniquely responsive to the educational needs of our communities, including skills needed to build a strong regional workforce. In fact, it is a key factor in attracting and expanding the region’s economic development and upward mobility of area employees and their families.
The importance of Roane State cannot be overstated. It is one Tennessee’s best investments. The success this college has brought to its students and our communities is remarkable, and I hold it as a top priority to support the continued success of this institution. Their achievements over the past five decades is a testament to how access, affordability and resources can change communities and lives over many generations. On this golden anniversary, I look forward to continuing to work with local and state leadership to encourage the growth of this institution and the future success it will bring to our communities.