Equal Chance for Education was founded on January 15, 2014, as a Tennessee Nonprofit organization by founder Michael Spalding M. D. after he saw a personal friend denied the opportunity for higher education because of her legal status. Melissa has lived in Nashville since she was 3 months old and successfully completed high school with outstanding academic records. After talking with her family about her situation, Dr. Spalding went to Nashville State, the local community college, to offer to pay for her first-year tuition. Upon telling the admissions counselor her name the tuition immediately jumped from $7000/for 2 years to $ 28,000. Dr. Spalding began to look into this issue more closely and saw that Melissa not only didn’t qualify for any sort of financial aid or student loans but was denied in-state tuition to Tennessee Universities and Colleges even though Tennessee is the only home she has ever known.
Equal Chance for Education has supported 306 Tennessee students at 15 colleges and universities. This fall ECE enrolled 86 new students and now has a total of 34 graduates. ECE graduates are improving our communities through their contributions as young leaders.
By providing access to a college education without regard to race, religion or nation of birth, ECE is changing the lives of Tennessee families while helping meet the goals of the Governor’s Drive to 55 initiative. As a scholarship program for DREAMers, ECE provides not only tuition but also career mentors and legal support, to help navigate non-academic challenges that can distract from school work. ECE students have a collective 3.4 GPA and a 97% retention rate. ECE 34 alumni have started their careers in business, nursing, education, social work, as accountants, engineers, programmers, and pursuing graduate degrees in business, law, medicine, and engineering.
Dr. Michael Spalding was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky and attended Washington and Lee University on a scholarship and then received his MD degree from University of Virginia. After his residency at Vanderbilt and two years as lieutenant commander and general surgeon at the US Naval Base in Guantano Bay, he entered into private practice in urology for 37 years. He has served multiple boards including President of The Kidney Foundation, Cancer Society, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Lea Rose, Cumberland University and is also a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Dr. Spalding is married to his wife Mary and has 2 daughters, Alice (Nick) and Ashley (Brendan), 3 grandchildren; Brendon, Michael, and Helen.
Photo: This photo provided by University of Memphis, commemorating the December 2019 Commencement Honorary Degree Recipient – Dr. Michael J. Spalding. Currently 58 ECE scholars attend the University of Memphis and ECE plans to continue to enroll students at U of M and is grateful for their partnership over the past 3 years.