Equal Chance for Education was founded on January 15, 2014, as a Tennessee Nonprofit organization by founder Michael Spalding, MD 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 three 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 $7,000 for two 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 fifteen colleges and universities. This fall ECE enrolled eighty-six new students and now has a total of thirty-four 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 percent retention rate. Thirty-four ECE 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 Guantanamo Bay, he entered into private practice in urology for thirty-seven 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 two daughters, Alice (Nick) and Ashley (Brendan), three grandchildren; Brendon, Michael, and Helen.