About Us

Our History

Our History

In 1988, businesses and citizens of Lawrence County raised funds for what would become the first community-owned extended campus of a community college in the state of Tennessee. The 12,000 square foot building would house Columbia State Community College and was constructed on Springer Road adjacent to Lawrence County High School. Hundreds of students passed through the Lawrenceburg Campus’s doors in the first 12 years. In 2000, the private sector partnered with Lawrence County Government to expand the existing building to 22,000 square feet and, as a community, provide the capacity for more than 8,000 students from southern middle Tennessee and north Alabama that would utilize the local campus since its opening.

The Project

The origins of STHEC

In 2014, Lawrence County began dreaming of providing an opportunity for students to earn a four-year, Bachelor’s Degree locally. A partnership was quickly formed with Tennessee Technological University and plans were drawn up to create a new campus. Another innovation for rural Tennessee, Lawrence County began constructing the Southern Tennessee Higher Education Center—the first community-owned, collaborative college campus in Tennessee.


When STHEC was founded.

The Drive to 55

Pushing towards higher education.

Tennessee has embraced a critical new mission: the Drive to 55—the Drive to get 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. Tennesseans are working towards this goal by employing two
programs: Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect.

The Tennessee Promise is a scholarship program to help more Tennessee high school graduates attends college. With it, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to offer high school graduates two years of community or technical college tuition-free, and we’ve seen record application numbers and higher enrollment and retention rates since the program launched in 2015.

The Tennessee Reconnect program helps more adults attend a community college or technical college and complete a postsecondary degree or credential, tuition-free. All Tennessee adults who do not already have an associate or bachelor degree are eligible to attend community college or technical college tuition-free starting in the fall of 2018. Tennessee Reconnect is a strategic component to achieving goals of the Drive to 55.

At least half the jobs in our state will require some post-secondary education by 2025— and attracting future employers depends on a highly-skilled workforce. While our state is making great strides in increasing the number of high school students who enroll in college, we cannot meet the full job market demands without engaging and supporting more adult learners. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer tuition-free community or technical college to