Due in part to rising college tuition, beginning post-secondary education at community colleges is emerging as a popular path for high school graduates.

Tuition at Pellissippi State Community College is based on the number of classes students are enrolled in, unlike UT's flat rate for full time or part time courses.

Students who transfer to UT from Pellissippi with a minimum 3.0 GPA may apply for a $1,500 per year scholarship which could help save additional dollars.

Rachel Cragle, Pellissippi's advising director, has worked at the community college for 17 years.

"Of the students who transfer to UT, I would say that the majority of them end up staying to get their degree," Cragle said. "Most of them plan on transferring out after a year, but most of the time, they just end up staying."

Cheyenne Lewis, a freshman at Pellissippi, plans on transferring to a four-year college like ETSU after completing two years of course work.

"If anything, one good thing would be cost. It's the same thing with anywhere," Lewis said. "You have to look and see what programs they offer, if they are effective or if they are good at all. Pellissippi has good engineering and you all have a nursing program. ... It's just individual to every school, not just university versus state college."

Many students enrolled at UT opt to take more difficult courses through a community college. Ginger Reaves, a sophomore at UT decided to retake a course at Pellissippi during the summer that had given her trouble during the UT school year.

"Taking the class online at that community college actually helped me understand it a lot better because I could go my own pace," Reaves said. "It was just weird how the lectures were. They were in these huge auditoriums, and they would go really fast. There wasn't any SI for that class either. So, I couldn't really find help. I actually learned it way faster, just over the summer online."

Pellissippi also serves as a stepping stone to UT for those students not initially admitted to the university. Applicants placed on a waiting list have the opportunity to participate in a bridge program offered by the community college.

"Everyone applies to UT, but not everyone can get in," Cragle said. "The program provides a way for students to be a part of the social scene and become part of the culture at UT while taking classes at Pellissippi. It's a way for them to earn their way into UT with their academics."

Jared Glenn, a junior at UT majoring in marketing, participated in the bridge program in 2011, its inaugural year.

"It is a totally different experience than UT," he said. "The feel at UT, you feel sort of connected to other students. At Pellissippi, you don't have that same connection of a university feel. You still build bonds with other students and get to know other students; it just has a different feel."