The Ayers Foundation recently announced that Wayne County has been selected to participate in the nationally-acclaimed The Ayers Foundation College Access and Completion Program. Leveraging new, recurring state funding through the Governor’s Rural Education Foundation, The Ayers Foundation is expanding its college readiness and access model into seven additional distressed and at-risk rural Tennessee counties in the upcoming school year, following a competitive RFP process.
“Supporting rural Tennessee has always been our passion,” said Janet Ayers, president of The Ayers Foundation. “We are proud of the proven success our College Access and Completion Program has demonstrated over the past twenty years and we are grateful to Governor Lee and the legislature for their belief in the model and fortheir support in expanding this opportunity to more students across rural Tennessee. Together we can ensure that every student has the support to pursue an educational option after high school best suited to their unique interests, strengths, and needs.”
Beginning this fall, Wayne County students in 8th through 12th grade will be assigned an Ayers Foundation counselor who will provide hands-on, individual college counseling through high school and postsecondary completion. These supports include parent and family engagement, college knowledge and planning, college fit and application assistance, college affordability, transition support, academic support, and completion and transfer support.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity that The Ayers Foundation and the Governor’s Rural Education Foundation has given to our school district,” said Marlon Davis, Director of Schools for Wayne County. “The ability to provide college access and readiness support to our students will pay dividends in their preparation for postsecondary training. Many of our students are first generation college students and this program will increase their confidence and assist them in meeting their educational goals.”
The Ayers Foundation Scholars Program currently serves eight high schools and two community colleges in Tennessee and boasts an up to 87% college-going rate and up to 82% college-completion rate with over $150M in grants and scholarships found for students.
As Governor Bill Lee announced in this year’s State of the State address, The Ayers Foundation is partnering with the state and the new Governor’s Rural Education Foundation to scale The Ayers Foundation College Access and Success Program model to more priority communities across our state.
“As we continue to prioritize rural Tennessee, it’s critical we work together to spur economic growth, invest in education and equip Tennesseans for success,” said Gov. Lee. “I thank The Ayers Foundation for their partnership in meeting the needs of our workforce and serving even more students across the state.”
“My parents instilled in me at an early age the importance of continuing my education past high school, but all children do not have this same support system,” said Jim Ayers, founder of the The Ayers Foundation. “Our foundation was originally created to give back to my home community. I knew then that the best way to support any community’s long-term growth and success was to ensure all students have access to higher education after high school. We are deeply committed to the students we serve and the counselors that work with our Ayers College Access program are the reason for our success – ensuring that we have a caring, knowledgeable adult working with each individual student to ensure they thrive and succeed.”
During the month of June, The Ayers Foundation put out a request for proposals to all qualifying Tennessee counties. After numerous responses and an independent review of proposals, The Ayers Foundation leaders completed on-site visits with each finalist before announcing final selections. In addition to Wayne County, Benton, Claiborne, Hardin, Haywood, Lewis, and Union counties have been
selected to participate in this initial phase of expansion.
“Too often our rural communities have the passion and dedication but too few resources to improve college access and readiness for their high school students,” says Susan Rhodes, Executive Director of The Ayers Foundations Scholars Program and The Ayers Foundation Rural Expansion Foundation. “We have seen that passion in Wayne County and are already at work to give students every possible opportunity to succeed in college and get prepared for a rewarding career.”
The Governor’s Rural Education Foundation and The Ayers Foundation Rural Expansion Foundation hope to extend this program into even more distressed and at-risk rural communities in the coming years and put the dream of a college degree within reach for more Tennessee students.
For updates and more information about the many programs of The Ayers Foundation, please visit