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Community College Learning Support :

Policy/Guideline Area

Academic Policies

Applicable Divisions

Community Colleges


This policy reflects the commitment of The College System of Tennessee and its institutions to enhance access to and success in post-secondary education for all students. The policy presents the parameters for the delivery of academic support made available for students who may require additional assistance for developing competency in reading, writing, and/or math needed for success in college-level courses. This policy supports TBR Policy (Admission at the Community Colleges) and (English Language Learners).


  • Learning Support is the academic support needed by a student to be successful in college-level general education courses and/or to meet minimum reading, writing, and mathematics competencies as required by faculty in programs that do not require general education courses in math, reading, or writing. The purpose of learning support is to enhance academic success in college-level courses and increase the likelihood of program completion that will prepare students for career success in their chosen field of study. Institutions are encouraged to provide academic support in a variety of ways other than learning support. This is especially true for efforts to close achievement gaps or otherwise serve the needs of target populations.
  • Corequisite Learning Support is the linking of learning support experiences with an appropriate, subject-specific, college-level course that is required in the student's chosen field of study, so that the student is enrolled concurrently in both learning support and appropriate college-level courses that are applicable to the student's academic pathway.
  • Valid Assessment Scores are those recognized from sources approved by the TBR Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs (exhibit 1) that are no more than five years old at the time that the college is determining placement.


  1. Each community college in the College System of Tennessee must provide academic support, known as learning support, using the framework provided below and incorporating best practices outlined in the document Fundamental Features of Corequisite Learning Support (exhibit 2).
  2. The delivery of learning support must be in accordance with the procedures specified below.
  3. Exceptions to this policy must be approved in writing by the TBR Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. TBR encourages institutions to pursue innovations that improve learning support for students. Institutions must seek prior approval for innovations that do not comply with this policy. The Learning Support Innovation Framework (exhibit 3) includes the process for seeking prior approval.


  1. Assessment and Placement
    1. Students who do not present valid assessment scores that demonstrate college readiness based upon established cut scores (exhibit 1) will be placed into the appropriate corequisite learning support for reading, writing, and/or mathematics as defined by the academic program requirements.
    2. Students with transferable college-level courses may be exempt from learning support or completing assessments.
    3. Institutions will provide, or may require, assessment(s) to allow students to challenge placement into corequisite learning support if they have not met established criteria.
      1. The challenge assessment will be a TBR-approved assessment that will be identified in the institution's Catalog and/or Student Handbook and listed as one of the approved options in (exhibit 1).
      2. In addition to this assessment, the institution may choose to require a writing sample for placement in ENGL 1010.
    4. Degree-Seeking Students: Degree-seeking students, either first-time or transfer, entering without valid assessment scores or transferable college-level credit, will be enrolled into corequisite learning support in the appropriate subject area along with the linked college-level course or may be given the option of challenge testing to place into college-level courses without learning support.
    5. Non-Degree Seeking/Certificate-Seeking Students:
      1. Non-degree-seeking students entering without transferable college-level courses will be subject to the same placement standards and procedure prior to enrollment in college-level general education courses that are subject to learning support criteria. The designation of the reading-intensive course to be accepted as transferable will be made by the receiving institution.
      2. Students who change to degree-seeking status will be assessed under guidelines for degree-seeking students.
      3. For students desiring to take one or more courses for personal or professional development, the institution will establish a policy to address the need for assessment.
    6. Students in Programs that Do Not Require College-Level Courses
      1. Academic programs that do not require specific college-level courses for which placement rules apply (i.e., math, English, or reading-intensive courses used for placement) may have faculty-prescribed learning support established as pre-requisites or corequisites specific to the degree program or certificate if deemed necessary for workforce readiness in the field of study.
      2. If a degree or certificate program does not require a particular college-level course for which placement rules apply but the student chooses to take the course, the standard assessment and placement rules above will apply.
  2. Fundamental Features of Corequisite Learning Support
    1. Corequisite Learning Support Framework
      1. Learning support will be offered exclusively in the corequisite format (with exceptions noted in section II.F). Students who require learning support will enroll in learning support and a linked college-level, credit-bearing course. Learning support is designed to support mastery of the skills needed in the linked college-level course in a "just-in-time" manner.
      2. Institutions will deliver corequisite learning support for reading, writing, and math as referenced by the Fundamental Features of Corequisite Learning Support document (exhibit 2).
      3. Learning support will be provided concurrently with required, subject-specific college-level courses.
      4. Students will satisfy learning support by passing the college-level course in the learning support area with a grade that satisfies the minimum grade requirement for the college-level course at that institution. Students will enroll in both learning support and the college-level course every semester until they pass the college-level course, even if they have passed learning support one or more times.
      5. Students wishing to drop or withdraw from either learning support or the linked college-level courses will be required to drop or withdraw from both courses.
      6. Institutions must ensure that English Language Learners who qualify for corequisite learning support have the support needed to be successful in credit-bearing coursework. Procedures for placement and delivery of corequisite learning support for English Language Learners are outlined in TBR Policy (English Language Learners).
    2. Delivery of Corequisite Learning Support
      1. Community colleges may provide learning support through credit-bearing courses or non-credit interventions.
      2. The learning support experience may be assigned up to three semester credit hours, and tuition may be charged accordingly.
      3. With approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents, learning support lab fees may be established in lieu of tuition.
      4. Credit hours assigned to learning support will be kept to a minimum and must allow students to satisfy the learning support requirements for any given academic program with at most three semester credit hours defined in any subject area and a total of no more than nine semester credit hours to define all three subject areas combined.
      5. The college-level, credit-bearing course linked with learning support will be identical to that taken by students who meet established scores for initial college-level placement. No elements of the corequisite experience will contribute to the grade earned in the college-level credit-bearing course.
      6. It may be appropriate to require differing learning support experiences with fewer semester credit hours or different delivery approaches. Examples include students with differing assessment scores or within specific majors.
      7. Corequisite learning support will be offered in math, reading, or writing. "Learning Strategies" will not be offered as required learning support. While these skills should be incorporated across the curriculum, learning strategies should be addressed in the first-year experience college success course.
    3. Timing of Corequisite Learning Support
      1. Corequisite learning support will interface with the college-level, credit-bearing course. Students will encounter learning support simultaneously with the college-level credit-bearing course during the same term and part of term.
      2. Learning support delivery must not delay enrollment of students into appropriate college-level courses applicable to the chosen program of study.
      3. Learning support competencies must be addressed as quickly as possible, beginning with the student's first semester. Students requiring learning support in multiple areas must address at least one subject area per term until all learning support requirements are completed or satisfied.
      4. When placement requires learning support in more than one subject area, learning support competencies may require more than one semester of work but should be completed within the first 30 semester credit hours.
    4. Alignment of Corequisite Learning Support with College-Level Courses
      1.  Corequisite learning support will be linked with subject-specific college-level courses that apply to the student's program of study.
        1. Corequisite learning support in math will be linked with a college-level math course that satisfies the general education math requirement.
        2. Corequisite learning support in writing will be linked with ENGL 1010.
        3. Corequisite learning support in reading will be linked with a reading-intensive college-level course that satisfies a general education requirement or a first-year experience course.
        4. Exceptions to the requirements for linked courses must be approved by the TBR Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
      2. Corequisite learning support will be distinct for the linked college-level course. For example, students in college-level statistics courses should not be enrolled in the same learning support section as students in college-level algebra.
      3. Corequisite learning support will support and illuminate the skills and concepts of the college-level, credit-bearing course.
      4. Corequisite learning support must address the competencies determined to be appropriate for college readiness (exhibits 3, 4, and 5) and must be aligned with the competencies required in the linked college-level course to facilitate successful completion of the college-level course.
      5. Full-time faculty who teach college-level courses must be involved in the development of appropriate corequisite learning support curricula and delivery plans that support the linked college-level courses. It is recommended that either the same faculty member teach the support and linked college-level course, or that the individuals who teach these linked courses have routine communication to identify ways to improve student success.
    5. Advising for Corequisite Learning Support
      1. Institutions will develop advising resources about placement and learning support.
      2. The advising resources will ensure students have clear and accurate information about placement and the assessment methods used to determine placement, including options for placement out of learning support (challenge exams, summer bridge programs, etc.).
      3. Advising resources should include academic maps or curricular worksheets that display the pathway to program completion with the inclusion of learning support.
      4. The advising resources will help institutions provide students with information about the goals of corequisite learning support and the structure of linked courses in which they are enrolled.
      5. Institutions will provide training to advisors on the goals of corequisite learning support, valid assessment methods for placement, and courses that are linked in the corequisite learning support model.
      6. Examples and best practices for advising will be shared in the TBR Advising Handbook or other system advising resources.
    6. Standalone Learning Support Experiences
      1. As an exception, standalone learning support may be provided only on a limited basis to support students whose program does not require college-level math, and/or English 1010, and/or reading-intensive courses, but the program requirements established by the faculty do include the successful demonstration of learning support competencies.
      2. For programs requiring no college-level courses in a specific subject area, institutions may develop ways to embed and address learning support competencies into one or more college-level course(s) or corequisite pairings with other college-level courses.
  3. Student Records and Financial Aid
    1. Student Records
      1. Students will demonstrate mastery of the defined learning support competencies at a level comparable to a passing grade.
      2. Successful completion of a student's learning support requirements will be recorded on the student's academic record with or without the assignment of standard grades. Pass/Fail may be used in lieu of assigned grades.
      3. Student progress and completion of learning support requirements will be recorded in the student information system and posted to the academic record.
    2. Financial Aid
      1. To qualify for federal student aid, learning support courses must meet requirements outlined by the U.S. Department of Education (Federal Student Aid Handbook, Volume 1, Chapter 1).
      2. Regarding the students receiving VA benefits, each institution will ensure that learning support is provided in compliance with the eligibility provisions of the rules and regulations of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (38 CFR Ch.1 § 21.4200 et seq.), including requirements for class attendance. Per CFR 21.4267(g), VA does not approve any Remedial/Deficiency courses that are not taught 100% resident in the classroom.
    3. Student Transfers Among TBR Community Colleges
      1. Student learning support information will be provided upon request. When a transcript is requested, the institution must send placement and enrollment status reports for transferring students that includes student record of progress and completion of learning support competencies or courses.
      2. Institutions must honor approved standardized assessment scores (exhibit 1) sent as official documents from another community college in the College System of Tennessee.
      3. Regardless of the strategies and activities used to provide learning support, once mastery learning has been documented by the institution, all TBR institutions must accept that documentation.
      4. If mastery for required competencies has not been documented as satisfied, the receiving institution will default to corequisite learning support. The institution may provide the opportunity for challenge testing.
  4. Organizational Framework for Learning Support
    1. Organizational Structure
      1. The president of each institution will determine the organizational structure and coordination of learning support services for the institution.
      2. Each institution will establish criteria for the selection of learning support faculty consistent with professional standards within the discipline and SACSCOC accreditation standards.
      3. Institutional policies will apply to faculty and staff whose primary role is learning support.
    2. Learning Support Directors
      1. The college will designate a faculty or staff member to serve as the college's Learning Support Director. If the institution does not have a Learning Support Director, the college can designate a lead faculty member for each subject area where learning support is provided (math, reading, and writing).
      2. The Learning Support Director will serve as the liaison between TBR and the institution for questions about learning support.
      3. TBR will establish a Learning Support Advisory Group that will include the Learning Support Directors or lead faculty designated by each institution. TBR will regularly convene the Learning Support Advisory Group to discuss policy updates and share best practices.
  5. Innovation and Continuous Improvement
    1. Evaluation of learning support is a continuous improvement process. The institution will monitor TBR-established benchmarks and annual performance indicators to demonstrate the progress of students who are placed in learning support.
    2. Measures of Success
      1. Success will be measured by 1) student completion of learning support, 2) enrollment and success in college-level courses for which students have received learning support, 3) fall-to-fall retention, 4) graduation rates, and 5) time to graduation.
      2. The institution may establish and report additional data measures to document and evaluate efforts to increase student access and success.
    3. TBR will conduct an annual survey of institutions' learning support models. The survey will be sent to the Chief Academic Officer at each institution. The survey will collect information about learning support practices and plans for proposed innovations. The survey is described in the document Annual Learning Support Innovation Survey (exhibit 7).
    4. TBR encourages institutions to pursue innovations that improve learning support for students. Institutions must seek prior approval for innovations that do not comply with this policy. The Learning Support Innovation Framework (exhibit 3) includes the process for seeking prior approval.
    5. Institutions approved to conduct pilot research about innovations to placement or corequisite learning support should continue to follow the policies outlined above for any students not affected by the pilot research.
    6. TBR will convene a Learning Support Working Group every five years to review the Community College Learning Support policy and propose revisions. The Learning Support Working Group will include representatives from each community college.




T.C.A. § 49-8-203, T.C.A. § 49-7-147 Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010.


Approved at Presidents Meeting August 17, 2010 (Revised former guideline A-100, Basic/Developmental Studies Program (DSP) Operational Guidelines); Presidents meeting February 14, 2012. Revisions approved at Presidents Meeting November 8, 2016. Revised and changed to policy, Board Meeting March 21, 2019; August 9, 2022 updated Exhibit 2; Revisions approved at September 22 2023 Board meeting.