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Returning Student Affirms Value of TN Reconnect

July 19, 2022

Sean BallentineManchester resident Sean Ballentine started his college education in 1996, immediately after graduating high school. A year later, he said he "crashed and burned" out of engineering school and wanted to take some time off to figure out what he wanted to do and grow up.

"That turned into more like 50 semesters," he said, taking 25 years off from school. "During the in-between, a lot of things happened. I failed so miserably back then. I drank a lot, had no self-control, and had zero time management skills."

At 31 years old, he finally quit drinking and started rebuilding his life. He ended up doing ministry work with poor people in New York City, which he said informed his worldview.

"I earned a non-accredited missional theology degree and did some pastoral counseling. That work rekindled my love for learning," Ballentine explained.

"My family and I moved to middle Tennessee about three and half years ago," said Ballentine. "I was faced with limited career options and began looking into local schools."

Ballentine discovered TN Reconnect. "It was a lifesaver, financially," he said. Through the State of Tennessee's Reconnect program, Motlow offers tuition scholarships for adults with no prior degree. Whether you've never attended college or graduated, ask Motlow how to complete your degree tuition-free.

In 2021, he enrolled at Motlow to complete an associate degree online and continue working.

"I have had an incredible experience with Motlow. Everyone has been helpful and encouraging thus far. I plan to continue my education after Motlow, hopefully at UT-Knoxville because they have a strong Social Work program," Ballentine said. He plans to earn his master's degree and provide therapy locally after.

"I highly encourage others to go back to school. It is a sacrifice once you have other responsibilities. And for me, it also required growth in areas where I was lacking. The opportunities provided help not only you but also your community," he added.

Motlow wants to help students who stopped out, for whatever reason, get back into college and finish their education. And, Motlow offers free tuition for many eligible adults. For those who may not qualify, the cost of tuition at Motlow is a fraction of the price at four-year institutions. Fall classes start on August 22. It's not too late to register and apply. Visit to learn more.

Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient, and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. The system offers associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs, and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at or visit Motlow at

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