tnAchieves, a scholarship program currently providing last-dollar funding for public high school applicants, will now offer assistance to students holding an associate's degree who wish to continue their higher education at UT.

Thanks to a $1 million gift from Randy and Jenny Boyd, both UT alumni, the organization's first transfer scholarship program will support two or three students next fall.

"Many students face both financial and non-financial burdens that prohibit the pursuit of a bachelor's degree," Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves, said. "This scholarship provides the opportunity for our students to overcome those barriers and earn a degree from a top-notch university."

Any tnAchieves program participant who has completed an associate's program will be considered for the transfer scholarship upon application to UT.

Working closely with tnAchieves' scholarship coordinator, UT administrators said they hope to make UT a more viable option for transfer students within the state.

"The existence of this new award will allow more financial resources to be offered to transfer students for the upcoming fall 2014 semester," said Tim Woods, associate director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at UT, "and this is a population who often needs additional funds to address their transition to a four-year university."

In addition to this donation, the Boyds have previously invested in programs for teacher education, founded student entrepreneurial competitions, and funded a unique veterinary school program. Randy Boyd is chair of the board for tnAchieves, as well as a special adviser on higher education to Gov. Bill Haslam.

"Both are individuals who have a heart for education and understand the necessity of ensuring more students earn a post-secondary degree," DeAlejandro said. "It is individuals like Randy and Jenny who allow tnAchieves to do this important work."

In a UT press release announcing the Boyd endowment, Randy Boyd expressed the desire that his family's gift will further Haslam's vision for higher education in Tennessee.

A Jan. 29 media release re-stated Haslam's Drive to 55 Initiative, which aims to have 55 percent of Tennesseans hold some form of higher education by 2025.

While DeAlejandro said she appreciates degrees offered by lower level post-secondary institutions, she believes the chance to pursue a bachelor's degree presents an unparalleled educational opportunity.

"Our community and technical college partners do an amazing job working with our students," DeAlejandro said. "However, it is very exciting to offer the opportunity for our students to further their education.

"It is incredibly important to provide avenues for students to reach their full potential."

DeAlejandro said she hopes the donation will draw attention to a student demographic often overlooked.

"It would be amazing if Randy and Jenny's gift inspired others to create similar endowments to other four-year institutions," she said. "However, we are thrilled that this is now an option for our students."

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