Kresge Foundation Grant to Better Serve Part-Time College Students in Davidson County


Tennessee College Access and Success Network Awarded $299,575 as part of The Kresge Foundation's CoPro2.0 Initiative

The Tennessee College Access and Success Network announced today that it was awarded a $299,575 grant from The Kresge Foundation to implement Nashville Flex, a program that will provide supports to increase the number of historically marginalized students succeeding in college.

Through Flex, Davidson County students attending Nashville State Community College part-time will be able to receive the same supports as students participating in Nashville GRAD, the first program in the state to add a layer of support to TN Promise by providing free, targeted financial assistance beyond tuition and wrap-around supports to full-time students. GRAD is a public-private partnership being implemented through investments from Metro Nashville Government and several private business partners.

Additionally, Nashville Flex will work in the Nashville Promise Zone neighborhoods to increase the number of students enrolling and re-engaging in higher education. Flex will train an additional 100 community members to become Reconnect Ambassadors who can help connect potential students, especially those from the Classes of 2020 and 2021, to the individuals and resources they need to succeed.

The Kresge Foundation’s CoPro2.0, short for College Promise 2.0, funds research and programming innovations that help to scale and improve the next generations of equitable, financially sustainable College Promise programs, or “free college” programs, working with community colleges across the United States.

“The needs of part-time college students have been grossly overlooked by higher education systems. The Nashville Flex program recognizes the sophistication of their lives and is uniquely positioned to curate the necessary conditions that enable their postsecondary success,” said Kresge Program Officer Ed Smith, a published scholar on the topic of free college programs. “We are excited to welcome the Tennessee College Access and Success Network to the CoPro 2.0 cohort and look forward to being a supportive partner in their service to the students of Nashville State Community College.”

 “The Kresge Foundation’s investment in helping Nashville implement a Promise program specifically designed to serve part-time students recognizes that many students struggle with the choice between attending college or meeting their family’s basic needs,” said Bob Obrohta, executive director of TCASN. “The reality is, many students can only attend part-time due to work and family commitments, and these students need the same, if not greater, supports to persist and succeed. We are committed to equity and opportunity; therefore, we must meet students where they are.”

Flex aims to help working students succeed in their higher education journey by providing supports that focus on barriers beyond tuition and fees such as transportation and food. Flex students will receive a monthly stipend for gas and groceries, a textbook/supply stipend each semester, a loaner laptop to use as long as they are enrolled, a dedicated advisor who will provide personalized guidance, career development support, and a strong peer network.

"Nashville GRAD data shows personalized support for full-time students is making a difference in persistence,” said Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, president of Nashville State. “Nashville Flex is an exciting opportunity for part-time students to receive the same program benefits of GRAD. Both programs expand access for Davidson County residents to become economically mobile while increasing the talent pipeline for the region. We are proud to partner with Kresge, Tennessee College Access and Success Network, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Vanderbilt University.”

The Nashville Talent Hub’s Reconnect Ambassador Program, led by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, will oversee outreach to increase higher education enrollment among students and families living in Nashville Promise Zone neighborhoods. The Chamber will train an additional 100 Reconnect Ambassadors to work with potential students to ensure they are connected to the individuals and resources they need to succeed. Reconnect Ambassadors live and work in the same neighborhoods as the potential students and are trusted sources. Many students and families in these neighborhoods are unaware of the programs that can help them succeed in higher education – such as Nashville GRAD and now Flex.

“The Chamber is thrilled to be part of this team. Building local talent pipelines is part of the Chamber’s long-term strategy for prosperity in the region,” said Laura Ward, Senior Vice President, Talent Development at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Building on systems of support that already exist, Nashville Flex ensures students attending Nashville State Community College have the opportunity to attend part-time and receive the additional support needed to persist while also building a community of support at a grassroots level in Nashville.”

Additional outreach efforts will include virtual trainings with school counselors and nonprofit professionals; printed materials to be shared at employers, faith-based organizations, and schools; direct student outreach; and social media campaigns.

The full Nashville Flex team includes TCASN, Nashville State Community College, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development, who will serve as the project’s evaluator.

“Our early analyses of the effectiveness of Nashville GRAD in providing essential supports for community college students suggest the program is making important contributions to students’ persistence toward their college degrees,” said Carolyn Heinrich, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. “We are excited about this partnership that will facilitate a crucial extension of program supports to part-time students, who face even greater barriers to college completion.”

TCASN is one of five CoPro2.0 programming grant recipients. Two research grants and four implementation grants were also awarded.

Tennessee College Access & Success Network

Driven by the mission to increase the number of Tennesseans completing postsecondary opportunities, the TCASN aims to establish a college-going culture in communities across the state., 615-983-6909.

The Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. For more information visit

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