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Report: Tennessee sees decline in high school graduates attending college

The college-going rate from 2019 to 2021 dropped nine percent, according to a report released by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
TN College-Going Rate for 2021 just over 50%
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 6:41 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The college-going rate from 2019 to 2021 dropped nine percent, according to a report released by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. It was 61.8% in 2019 and it dropped to 52.8% in 2021, the report stated.

Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Chief Policy Officer, Steven Gentile said the pandemic is to blame, especially the 2020-2021 school year.

“That is a precipitous decline reflected of a lot that we know about the pandemic’s impact on education,” Gentile explained, “It was just a very disrupted year.”

Students turned directly to the workforce.

“Competing with higher wages perhaps has brought down the college-going rate,” Gentile said.

In Knox County, East Tennessee’s largest school district with close to 60,000 students, the rate in 2019 was 61.6%, then dropped to 59.5% in 2021, which remains higher than the state average for 2021.

“It’s critical for our workforce, for our economy and also for individual students to have opportunity for advancement, in their lives, in their careers. And so it’s on a personal level for students and also state wide for the success of our Tennessee economy,” Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Chief Access and Outreach Officer, Samantha Gutter, said.

Gentile said there’s been enrollment declines at six community colleges in East Tennessee, East Tennessee State University and UT Chattanooga, but UT Knoxville and Tennessee College of Applied Technology have seen increases in enrollment.

The commission is working to determine a solution to the problem.

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