Tennessee higher education officials, like their counterparts across the country, are struggling to reduce enrollment in colleges across the state. But a sharp drop in the number of high school graduates enrolled in college – the lowest number seen in a decade – has raised alarm bells and prompted state officials to redouble efforts to slow down the fall and attract more students.
Officials are also trying to figure out what the problem is with the new trend line প্রথম first-time enrollment by high school grades অনেক despite the many programs that helped boost enrollment in the past.
“I think everyone has the same question, and everyone is still working on the answer,” said Linda Martin, vice president of academic affairs and student success at the University of Tennessee system, about the decline in national enrollment.
According to a new report released May 23 by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), “College Going and the Class of 2021,” Tennessee Public High School graduates have dropped from 56.8 percent to 52.8 percent in the fall semester after graduating. This is the lowest college enrollment rate since the commission started tracking numbers in 2011 The rate also declined sharply in 2020, from 61.8 percent in 2019, a fall that coincided with the COVID-19 epidemic.
Emily House, the commission’s executive director, said she was not surprised by the drop in enrollment rates, but nevertheless said it was “a blow to the higher education system.”
“It’s certainly not unique to Tennessee. It will take a long time for Tennessee and the nation to overcome this, “he said. “It’s a call to action.”
Graduation and first-year enrollment rates have declined nationally and across epidemics in individual states. According to an April survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61.8 percent of 2021 high school graduates were enrolled in college nationally, a slight decline from 2020 but much higher than Tennessee’s enrollment rate.
Although college rates in Tennessee have reflected the trend of the national population. The state’s most recent high school graduates who did not attend college were disproportionately black and Hispanic students and from low-income backgrounds. The rate was also lower among students in rural areas as compared to other places in the state.
The state, like others, seeks to increase the number of residents in the state with post-secondary degrees or certificates to meet the demands of the labor market and to fill the vacancies that are currently not sufficiently qualified candidates.
These efforts include the state’s Drive to 55 campaign, an initiative launched in 2015, designed to raise the percentage of employees in the state with college degrees or other academic credentials to 55 percent by 2025. The percentage was 46.8 percent in 2019, according to the latest College Going Report available figure.
Tracking state college attendance rates year after year is an essential component of the Drive-to-55 initiative and plans by higher state officials to understand what steps should be taken to improve the numbers. Officials have put in place three statewide programs to help achieve that goal: the Tennessee Promise, which provides scholarships to college-admitted high school graduates; Tennessee Reconciliation, a tuition-exempt initiative aimed at returning students who have dropped out of college; And Tennessee LEAP, which is a certificate matching the course with the institution that employers want.
House THEC members said; The State Board of Regents, which oversees community and technical colleges; And after the release and discussion of the college-going report, a number of non-profit higher-education foundations and other stakeholders met last week and discussed “How to change the services we are already offering? What can we do bigger and better now? How do we improve communication and messaging for the services we provide? “
Ross Dayton, executive vice-chancellor of the Board of Regents for Policy and Strategy, said they want to determine the status of students who are not enrolled in college after graduating from high school.
“If they are in the workforce, that means we need to be able to make the space between us and the workforce more accessible,” he said. Can help them come back and complete their programs and gain credentials.
Dayton, a former deputy executive director of the state higher education commission, said continued state funding for higher education may have helped institutions further reduce their enrollment by allowing students to receive scholarships and other financial support.
“As efficient as these things are, it may not be enough for us,” he said.
The percentage of first-year college enrollment by Tennessee High School graduates increased in 2015, the same year the Tennessee Promise Program was launched and began covering tuition and fees for enrolled students in state two-year institutions that meet certain income criteria. (Associate degree students in four-year colleges are also eligible.) All 40 public two-year institutions and about 20 four-year institutions participate in the program. The University of Tennessee system suits up five years later with a version of the program called UT Promise, which does the same thing for undergraduate students.
The two-year and four-year institutions in the state offer the Hope Scholarship, which began in 2004 and is funded by the state lottery revenue. Grants are available for state high school graduates who meet the minimum grade point average and test scores and who enroll within 16 months of high school graduation. They are renewable every semester on the basis of remaining academically qualified. On June 1, the state increased the grant to 600 per semester, bringing the grant for students in the last two years of a four-year college degree to $ 2,850 per semester.
First-year enrollment at the University of Tennessee System rose 4.9 percent in 2021, and Martin said preliminary estimates indicate a similar increase in the fall of 2022. The increase, however, occurred only on the flagship Knoxville campus, while the numbers dropped slightly in 2021 on the Chattanooga and Martin campuses. The fall of Martin was significant, he said, due to the rural location and the fact that the region was disproportionately damaged by the epidemic. As a result, the number of high school graduates in the area has decreased.
The graduate list at Nashville’s historic Black Tennessee State University has risen since the epidemic began, rising from 5,875 in the fall of 2019 to 6,000 in the fall of 2020 and 6,375 in the fall of 2021, according to the university. The increase is the result of a dedicated recruitment and marketing plan by university officials that recognizes the downward trend in the state and nationally, says Tennessee State Assistant Vice President, Tennessee State’s Enrollment Management. “Sometimes difficult situations force you to think creatively and the end result is innovation.”
Part of that innovation, he said, is strengthening relationships with education and community leaders in and around Nashville and reminding their students that college is an effective, affordable option. It also includes more time and money pledges for a partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools, where Tennessee State has launched a mentoring program designed to prepare high school students for college. The University will increase that commitment by the fall of 2023 by providing full tuition and fee cover to 100 incoming Nashville Public School students.
Community colleges in the state, however, suffered an overall enrollment loss in the past year that was serious enough to force several institutions to lay off staff and drop positions.
For the University of Tennessee system, spreading the message about scholarships and grants – especially the UT Commitment, which is still relatively new and effective in the first year of the epidemic – has grown in importance, Martin said, but so has the idea that all institutions must have what students want and need. Need to determine and provide for them.
“If people drop out of college during an epidemic, how do we get them back? What is the reason why they opt out? I think it’s a question we don’t really know, that we need to dig deeper and learn more about it, “said Martin. Institutions also need to consider whether any current education structure, including semester, course start dates, and hybrid learning, should be changed: “How do we create alternatives for students that are not traditional alternatives?”
House, executive director of the state higher education commission, said “conversations have already begun to change” about increasing the number of high school graduates attending colleges in the state. Four days before the release of the college-going report, THEC announced that teaching in state institutions would be frozen for the 2022-23 academic year, to be paid for by a new round of state funding.
The House said it could “hopefully” imagine some improvement between this year’s fall and the 2024 fall.
Both House and Martin make it very clear that the pre-epidemic enrollment rate is no longer realistic in its attempt to “return to normal.”
“I think there’s an understanding that there’s no going back,” House said. “Success is not about going back to what it was in February 2020. No one is working out of that framework.”