Tennessee College-Going Rate on the Rise

By Sara Weissman

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission recently reported the largest year-over-year increase in the state’s college-going rate since the 2015 launch of Tennessee Promise, a last-dollar free tuition scholarship for community college students.

More than half‚ÄĒ56.7¬†percent‚ÄĒof Tennessee public high school graduates in the Class of 2023 immediately enrolled in college, an increase of 2.4¬†percentage points over the Class of 2022, according to the¬†commission‚Äôs report.

Steven Gentile, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, partly credited an initiative called the Momentum Year, established by the commission and the nonprofit Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, which administers state financial aid, with increasing enrollment and completion rates.

Gentile noted in a press release that the goal was not only to increase college-going for the Class of 2023 but also to boost adult higher ed enrollment through Tennessee Reconnect and to improve coordination between education and workforce training.

‚ÄúIt is gratifying to see those efforts pay off in helping even more Tennessee students and adult learners pursue their dreams and careers with college degrees and workforce credentials beyond high school,‚ÄĚ he said.

Disparities in college-going rates persist, however. Low-income students had a 39.3 percent college-going rate, compared to 65.3 percent for their more economically advantaged peers.

The report also found that while college-going rates increased for all racial groups and genders, the increases were uneven. For example, white women, Hispanic or Latino men, and women in the ‚Äúother‚ÄĚ category, which includes Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and students of two or more races, exceeded the statewide increase of 2.4¬†percentage points. But college-going among other groups, including Black women and men, white men, and men in the ‚Äúother‚ÄĚ category, grew at a lower rate than the overall state‚Äôs.

‚ÄúWe know there is still so much more work to do to help ensure every Tennessean has the opportunity for college access and success,‚ÄĚ Gentile said in the release. He noted that helping members of the Class of 2024¬†complete the FAFSA¬†will be a priority for the state this summer.