Lonnie Williams

Business major

My college journey began back in 2013. I was living in Wise, VA, working for Lowe’s. I made the decision that I wanted to go back to school, so I contacted the school and began the process to start in the spring of that year. After filling out the FASFA, I was excited to learn that I had been granted a few scholarships that were enough to cover my tuition. I had to cover the price of my books, and I was ok with that. The semester went great.

After completing my first semester, I was excited to begin my second. Because I had started in the spring, I had to complete the FASFA again for the fall. I was so excited and motivated because of how the previous semester had gone. You can’t imagine my disappointment when I learned that I made too much money to receive any scholarships – I was devastated. How could I make too much money when outside of my regular bills I didn’t have nearly enough to pay for college? Unfortunately, college had to take a back burner because I could not afford it.

Fast forward a few years … I had moved from Virginia back home to Georgia (to help take care of my mother who was given a few months to live). It was now 2019 and I was now in Tennessee. Going back to school was something that I had wanted to do ever since it took a back burner in 2013, but now I was nearly six years older and I wasn’t sure that going back to college at age 36 would be possible. One day, I was talking to a friend who attends UTC, and I mentioned that I had wanted to go back to school but my work schedule would not allow the time and I wasn’t sure if it was right for me anymore. He mentioned that Chattanooga State had a good online program and that the state of Tennessee had a program called the Tennessee Reconnect program which was an effort by the state to encourage adults to return to school.

Fast forward another year and a half. I am so glad I took his advice and looked into the online program at ChattState and the TN Reconnect program. I am entering my final year at ChattState. All my classes have been taken through the online program. Thanks to the TN Reconnect program I will be graduating with $0 in student loans. I am so happy that my thoughts and fears about returning to college as an adult student were wrong. It thrills me to know I am making my family proud by being the first to have a college diploma. Without the TN Reconnect program and ChattState’s online program this would not be possible for me, so I will ever be grateful for both.