Beneath the Surface

The State of Higher Education in Tennessee

Despite recent progress in college enrollment and completion rates, Tennessee’s higher education system continues to face significant challenges, especially around equity gaps hindering minority, adult and low-income students from earning postsecondary credentials.

Complete Tennessee’s second annual State of Higher Education in Tennessee report, entitled Beneath the Surface, confirms declines in adult enrollment, troubling African American retention and employment rates, and falling graduation rates for low-income students.


Look at the numbers.


Adult Enrollment is Declining

Adult enrollment (ages 25-64) has dropped 25 percent from 2011-2015.

Source: IPEDS

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African American Students Experience Lower Retention Rates

Upward trends in student retention have included narrowing gaps in achievement for Hispanic students. However, disparities for African-American students continue to exist.

Source: THEC


Low-Income Students Are Less Likely to Graduate

Graduation rates for low-income students (as measured by Pell grants) are consistently lower across Tennessee colleges except for the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs).

Source: IPEDS, 2016


African Americans in Tennessee are Underemployed at All Education Levels

African Americans in Tennessee are more likely to be unemployed than their peers at all levels of educational attainment.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015


Hear from the students.

Tennessee's students are incredibly motivated to attend and succeed in college but face many challenges as they pursue a degree.

Complete Tennessee aims to understand the challenges students face and elevate their stories as we advocate for change.

See why Adriana, Jason, Micah, and Abraham decided to attend college, and learn what supports have helped them succeed.


Read the full report.