Almost half of Tennessee’s high school seniors do not go on to college immediately after graduation. This is the lowest percentage in the last 10 years.
“We are moving very fast and in the wrong direction,” Randy Boyd, President of the University of Tennessee, said on Monday. “I would like to take it as a challenge, and this is definitely a challenge in our time.”
Despite Tennessee’s financial assistance programs that make college more affordable, such as the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Hope Scholarships, only 52.8% of high school graduates who graduated from the 2021 class enrolled in college after graduation.
According to the report, the rate is down 4 percentage points from the previous year and down 11 percentage points from 2017. Report From the Tennessee Commission on Higher Education.
According to the new report, the decline is not evenly distributed across the state or its population. More than half of Tennessee’s 95 counties have college enrollment rates of less than 53%, with fewer Latin and black students enrolling in college in the last two years compared to white students.
This trend is not unique to Tennessee. The National Student Clearing HouseA non-profit organization for higher education and research has found that nearly 213,000 fewer students enrolled in college last fall than in the fall of 2019.
However, given Tennessee’s goal of increasing the number of working adults with a college degree or technical qualification, this decline will have a negative impact on the state’s workforce development.
“In today’s economic reality, high school diplomas aren’t enough for long-term success,” said Emily House, Secretary-General of the Tennessee Commission on Higher Education. statement.. “All students can benefit from higher education and training beyond high school to provide opportunities for success and progress. Therefore, the decline and disparity in college enrollment rates are between Tennessee and me. It should be a call for action for our country. “
Data and disparity
When the Tennessee Promise Scholarship debuted in 2015, postgraduate college enrollment peaked at 64%. The scholarship covered tuition and fees for students attending community colleges or vocational schools after financial assistance began.
During 2019, college rates fell slightly, but remained above 61%.
But the coronavirus pandemic changed that dramatically. Since the fall of 2019, rates have fallen by 9 percentage points. Over the last decade, this rate has fallen by 5 percentage points overall.
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Stephen Gentile, Chief Policy Officer of the Tennessee Commission on Higher Education, presented data for stakeholders in a discussion hosted by UT’s Howard H. Baker, Jr. Public Policy Center.
“We are certainly at this uncertain time when it comes to access to the university, trying to figure out what happened in the last few years and predict the next 10-15 years,” Gentile said. ..
Almost every county in Tennessee has fewer college graduates. Only eight counties in the state have more graduates enrolled in colleges or vocational schools than in 2017.
Some counties are more hurt than others. For example, only 33% of graduates from Fayette County near Memphis attended college in the fall of 2021. Meanwhile, 81% of seniors in Williamson County enrolled. The rate for Knox County was 59%.
Gender inequality has continued to widen over the past two years. Nearly 53% of Tennessee high school graduates did not attend college in the fall.
And as Latin graduates saw the largest decline in college enrollment, the equity gap is widening. Only 35% of Latin American graduates entered college last fall. Since 2019, the number of registrants has decreased by 11% for both black and Latin graduates.
Why are so few students going to college?
Only half of Tennessee’s high school graduates actually attended college this fall, but the majority wanted to go to college. Last year, nearly 70% of high school graduates wanted to go on to college or college. Research From the Tennessee Commission on Higher Education.
So why don’t students register?
Celeste Carruthers, a professor of labor economics at Haslam Business College in UT, said there were some confusions that could discourage students from pursuing higher education.
“For many people, and for many students, college is like a very complex everyday game of Tetris, constantly changing and moving every piece to fit them,” says Carruthers. I said on Monday. “The pandemic and the subsequent fallout completely changed the game and crashed at the same time.”
“Interruptions” include short-term changes in college experience due to pandemics. For example, a student who has had a negative experience of learning online in high school may take a break until the class meets again in person. Alternatively, people with weakened immunity (or living with someone with weakened immunity) may take a gap year to avoid health risks.
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Both of these interruptions are pandemic-fueled barriers, but hopefully they will subside as the country controls COVID-19.
However, “chaos” is a pandemic-related change that has potential lasting consequences such as labor shortages.
“Currently, we have more jobs than job seekers,” said Carruthers. “Local companies are hiring directly from high school.”
According to Carruthers, high school graduates may not be able to take classes due to more new jobs and higher hourly wages over the last two years.
Time constraints, childcare and economic uncertainty also affect things.
What does this mean for Tennessee?
Fewer high school graduates enrolling in college can jeopardize the state’s economic and workforce needs.
As of 2019 (latest data available), nearly 47% of adults working in Tennessee have a college degree or technical qualification. This means that the state is about 8% less than 2025 to reach its 2025 goal of acquiring just over half of the state’s working adults to some extent.
Former Governor Bill Haslam, who implemented the Tennessee Promise, said, “When I started Drive to 55 nine years ago, I was really worried about getting the right workforce.”
That worry hasn’t disappeared. High salaries just after graduating from high school may be convincing for recent graduates, but Haslam and Carruthers both said colleges are usually rewarded.
“The jobs that can earn more than $ 45,000 without a degree or certificate are still really limited,” Haslam said. “And the jobs we are increasingly hiring in Tennessee require a higher skill set.”
Also, because the birth rate is declining, fewer high school graduates will go on to college and get a job. According to the Western Higher Education Commission, the number of high school graduates in Tennessee will peak by 2026 and then decline.
“The declining birthrate means that companies are spending more time now than ever before.“ How can we automate this? ”Hasslam said. “I think the trend will escalate.”
Becca Wright: Knox News Higher Education Reporter
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This article was originally published in Knoxville News Sentinel: Half of Tennessee High School Graduates Do Not Go to College