Report: TN Working to Increase College Enrollment, Degree Attainment

Tennessee and the rest of the country are making progress in getting higher education to more people.

A new report from the Lumina Foundation found nearly 54% of working-age Americans have earned a degree or certificate after high school, which the Foundation pointed out is key to getting a good job in today’s economy.

Tennessee is slightly below the national average, at about 47.3%.

Jessica Gibson, senior director for adult learner initiatives for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said several initiatives are in place to try to make college completion within reach, including Tennessee Reconnect Grants, financial aid, and college-specific support programs for adults.

“The Tennessee Reconnect Grant allows an adult to complete an associate degree tuition-free,” Gibson noted. “We also have something called the Tennessee Student Assistance Award, which is available for financially needy students, and the Hope nontraditional scholarship, which is available for adults who want to complete a bachelor’s degree.”

Gibson explained the most recent legislation, Senate Bill 2405, states the qualifying age for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship is 23. It is open to adults who have not completed a college degree.

Gibson emphasized the Volunteer State has a critical educational attainment goal to get 55% of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by 2025. A recent research study from the University of Tennessee Knoxville Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research found both pre- and post-pandemic employment growth in Tennessee has been faster for higher-paying college-level jobs.

“In order to meet these goals, Tennessee is going to have to continue and increase the urgency and focus on the importance of attainment and the value of college for us to reach the 55% attainment goal,” Gibson stressed. “Since we launched the Drive 55 initiative, we recognize that we cannot meet the goal without increased adult enrollment.”

She added another way the state is working to achieve the 55% attainment goal is through the Reconnect Navigator program, which provides free career-exploration tools, a single point of contact to help adult learners navigate the path to college, and assistance with understanding financial aid and college costs.

Lucky Knott

Lucky Knott

One of Southern Tennessee's most experienced and recognized news broadcasters and play-by-play sportscasters. News and Sports Director for Rooster 101.5 FM, 93.9 The Duck and Whiskey Country 105.1, and 95.9. He is currently the play-by-play voice of the Coffee County Red Raiders (31 years) on The Rooster 101.5 and can be heard M-F broadcasting our local news. Lucky has done play-by-play for 4,002 (and counting) sports events on Radio & TV. He also served four years as the Public Information Officer for the Coffee Co. Sheriff's Dept. and taught Radio/TV for six years at Grundy County High School.

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