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News: Roane State Foundation has programs, funds for students under financial stress

News: Roane State Foundation has programs, funds for students under financial stress

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May 14, 2020

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

Roane State students are facing a variety of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Roane State Foundation can be of help in many instances, Foundation Executive Director Scott Niermann said.

Stay-at-home decrees, social distancing and the loss of full- or part-time jobs are adding to students’ stress levels, already high from adjusting to online classes after the college closed its campuses in response to the pandemic.

“We anticipate needs will significantly increase as we approach the end of the semester and head into next school year,” Niermann said.

Some returning adult students aged 21 to 24 may have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. They are in the age gap between being eligible for the tuition-covering Tennessee Promise for recent high school graduates, and Tennessee Reconnect for adults over 24.

The Foundation recently created a special “Gap Aid” scholarship fund for those in that age bracket, and Niermann said the fund may be a much bigger need in the fall.

Among the Foundation’s resources to address students’ needs is its Pay-It-Forward Emergency Aid program which is available for students who have “unforeseen financial stresses,” according to program guidelines.

Through the program, a student can receive up to $500 to offset unexpected expenses. Students in need should email for any needs and Roane State staff will respond. While Roane State may not be able to assist directly with every request, staff will work to connect students, staff, faculty and their families with local resources whenever possible.

Financial pitfalls supported through this Foundation program could range from car repairs to utility payments. For instance, the Foundation recently funded a portion of a student’s rent payment due to lost wages and purchased an e-textbook for another student in a similar circumstance, Niermann said.

Two grants are being sought to help address students’ food insecurity issues and restock campus pantries now on the Oak Ridge, Roane County and Cumberland County campuses, Niermann said. Other food insecurity grants are being eyed, he said.

Roane State Foundation “is also focusing on ensuring we have scholarship funds for the upcoming school year ready to go,” Niermann wrote in an email. He said applications for scholarships opened in early March, just before the pandemic closed campuses.

“We have been working to get the message out to incoming freshmen and new students, as well as returning students, to complete the short Foundation scholarship application and release form by May 31,” he said.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at


The Roane State Foundation is a separate 501(c)(3) corporation governed by an independent board of directors and established to provide financial support for Roane State students and programs. The Foundation seeks to enhance community awareness of the college, to secure private contributions and bequests, and to manage monies or properties given to the Foundation. For more information, visit, email or call (865) 882-4507.

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