Tennessee is considered a national leader when it comes to college access.
The Tennessee Promise program offers high school grads two years of free community college. Meanwhile, Tennessee Reconnect provides tuition-free avenues for adults who want to return to school or are just starting their college journey.
Yet despite the wide-array of offerings, degree attainment across the state is uneven. A new analysis of public data published by The Tennessean offers insight into some of the factors impeding wider progress.
“People in cities are much more likely to be college educated, with some zip codes in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga rivaling the highest performing areas in the nation,” notes reporter Adam Tamburin. “…But rural areas lag far behind. In large swaths of the state, fewer than one in four adults have an associate degree or higher.”
Educators are now looking at ways to engage students earlier by incorporating more college classes into rural and urban high schools. And state leaders are considering whether increasing state funding for community and technical colleges could help more at-risk students stay on track.
“A huge part of closing the gap in those cities is getting the system to work for people who have been extraordinarily poorly served by the existing system,” Will Doyle, a Vanderbilt University (TN) professor who helped compile the data, told The Tennessean.
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