Governor Bill Haslam today officially launched his ‘Drive to 55’ Initiative, the goal of which is to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a post-secondary credential in order to meet Tennessee’s current and future workforce and economic needs. A broad assemblage of higher education and business stakeholders as well as members of the Tennessee General Assembly attended the launch.
“We want Tennesseans working in Tennessee jobs. We want Tennesseans to have an opportunity to get a good job and for those in the workplace to be able to advance and get an even better job,” Haslam said. “Currently in Tennessee, only 32 percent of us have a certificate or degree beyond high school, and studies show that by the year 2025 that number needs to be at least 55 percent for us to keep up with job demand. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The governor outlined Tennessee’s current situation including:
· Nearly 70 percent of Tennessee students entering community college need remedial classes before they can take college level courses;
· More than 20,000 Tennessee high school graduates choose not to continue their education each year.
· There are approximately 940,000 adult Tennesseans that have some college credit but haven’t earned an associate or four-year degree.
· On the state’s current path, Tennessee is projected to reach 39 percent of citizens with a certificate or degree beyond high school by the year 2025. To reach 55 percent would be 494,000 more people.
· Tennessee is 20 percent below the national average in terms of degree attainment.
Among other speakers, the governor’s special advisor for Higher Education, Randy Boyd, gave an update on the progress made to date on the ‘Drive to 55’ initiative including:
· $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, which institutions will begin receiving in the coming weeks.
· Launch of WGU Tennessee – an online, competency-based university aimed at the 940,000 adult Tennesseans that have some college credit but didn’t graduate with an associate or four-year degree.
· Newly created endowment of $47 million using operational reserve funds from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) to provide nearly $2 million each year to support scholarships for “last dollar” scholarship programs such as tnAchieves. These scholarships fill the gaps between students’ financial aid and the real costs of college including books, supplies, room and board.
· Launching the SAILS program, Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support, to give students who need extra support in math attention during their senior year in high school so they can avoid remediation when they enter college.
· Legislation sponsored by Majority Leaders Mark Norris and Gerald McCormick to create the Labor Education Alignment Program – or LEAP – to better coordinate key stakeholders on the state and local level to address workforce readiness.
· And new online learning innovations in Tennessee through partnerships with edX and Coursera.
Haslam appointed Boyd to the position in January, and he has consulted with a formal working group made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee.
In his presentation, Boyd also placed emphasis on the importance of dual enrollment and other high school pre-college programs, a topic many legislators have been avid to address next session. Boyd stressed that a successful effort to reach 55 percent degree attainment will require the state to focus on more than two and four-year degrees. An increasing emphasis will be placed on certificates at technology centers and community colleges.
The governor will be traveling the state in the coming weeks to further discuss Tennessee’s workforce development needs and the ‘Drive to 55’ Initiative.
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