Profiles and Trends Section III. Student Participation

Figure 3.1

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  • 3.1. Tennessee College-going Rates by Race / Ethnicity: 2011-2014
    Tennessee College-going Rates by Race / Ethnicity: 2011-2014
  • Tennessee College-going Rates by Race / Ethnicity: 2011-2014 Data
  • The college-going rate is defined as a percentage of high school graduates who enrolled in college anywhere in the U.S. in the fall semester following high school graduation. This measure is critical for identifying issues with higher education access and participation. It is also important to realize that this metric captures only traditional college-going patterns (immediate enrollment) and does not account for delayed enrollment or non-traditional students.

    Disparity among racial/ethnic groups is one of the most severe issues in college participation. Figure 3.1 shows college-going rates for major racial/ethnic groups in Tennessee over time.

    From 2011 to 2014, the college-going rates for most groups have been stable. While having the lowest college-going rate among all ethnic groups in Tennessee, Hispanics have shown the greatest increase from 34.3 percent in 2013 to 41.4 percent in 2014. Hamblen and Warren counties had the greatest increase in Hispanics’ college-going rate, 27.9 and 14.7 percentage points, respectively (not shown on the graph). The postsecondary participation rates for Black high school graduates have been above 50 percent. White graduates show a higher rate, approaching 60 percent. Asian graduates, at 69.2 percent in 2014, have had the highest college-going rate of all racial/ethnic groups during this period.

Figure 3.2

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  • 3.2. College Participation Rates for Students from Low-income Families: U.S., SREB states (excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee (1993-2013)
    College Participation Rates for Students from Low-income Families Data
  • College Participation Rates for Students from Low-income Families Data
  • Children from low-income families—defined as those who are approved for free or reduced-price school lunches (FRL)—have the greatest financial obstacles to obtaining a higher education. Positive changes in the proportion of these students in the college-going population attest to the success of states’ efforts to ensure greater access to, and affordability of, postsecondary education.

    College participation rates for students from low-income families are defined as the ratio of the number of undergraduate dependents receiving Pell Grants to the number of children in low-income families (FRL 4-9th graders, nine years earlier).

    Figure 3.2 shows that the share of the K-12 student population from low income families pursuing higher education has been growing over time. This is true nationwide, for SREB states, and for Tennessee. Tennessee’s rate has grown from 16.5 percent in 1993 to 33.4 percent in 2013. Tennessee has outpaced the SREB average since 2007. However, in 2013 it still trailed the national average of 38.4 percent.

Figure 3.3

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  • 3.3. Destination of College-going Recent Tennessee High School Graduates (Fall 2000 – Fall 2014)
    Destination of College-going Recent Tennessee High School Graduates Data
  • Destination of College-going Recent Tennessee High School Graduates Data
  • Decisions of college-bound high school graduates about where to attend higher education have critical implications for state economies. While in college, students will contribute to the state’s economy through tuition and cost of living. However, more importantly, many of these students will remain in the state after graduation, strengthening its labor force.

    One of the key goals of the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship (TELS) program is to retain the best and brightest students in the state. Figure 3.3 shows that since 2004, the year TELS was implemented, a greater percentage of recent Tennessee high school graduates are enrolling in state institutions. After an initial increase in the proportion of Tennessee high school graduates opting for in-state institutions, this ratio has remained stable over time at approximately 85 percent. In the fall of 2014, the percent of recent Tennessee high school graduates enrolling in the state’s institutions was exactly 84 percent, slightly higher than 83.7 percent in 2012.

Figure 3.4

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  • 3.4. Adult Participation Rate: U.S. and Tennessee (2013)
     Adult Participation Rate: U.S. and Tennessee (2013) Data
  • 3.4. Adult Participation Rate: U.S. and Tennessee (2013) Data
  • Participation of non-traditional students in higher education is crucial for a number of reasons. First, enrolling (and graduating) more adults enables states to move toward a more educated citizenry, economic prosperity and competitiveness, and enhanced social mobility. Second, this metric shows the extent of states’ commitment to life-long learning and providing educational opportunities to all citizens. Finally, adult participation reflects demographic shifts in student populations and college access.

    Figure 3.4 presents adult participation rates across various institutional types in the U.S. and Tennessee in 2013. Participation rates of non-traditional aged students in Tennessee are far below the national average. Public and private higher education institutions in the state enrolled 5.1 percent of adults who had a high school diploma but no college degree, compared to 7.6 percent nationally. The gap in the adult participation rate in Tennessee and the U.S. differs by institutional sector, and is widest at public two-year institutions.

Figure 3.5

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  • 3.5. Tennessee Undergraduate Enrollment: 25 Years Old and Above
    Tennessee Undergraduate Enrollment: 25 Years Old and Above Data
  • Tennessee Undergraduate Enrollment: 25 Years Old and Above Data
  • The share of nontraditional students attending postsecondary institutions has been steadily increasing. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (2012), nationwide, 38 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students are adult learners.

    Figure 3.5 shows the enrollment trends of Tennessee adult students. Until 2008, adult enrollment declined steadily at Tennessee’s public 2-year institutions, and then started to increase. However, adult enrollment in community colleges has declined since 2011. Public universities have also experienced a decline in adult enrollment. Private institutions have enrolled increasing numbers of adult students over the last 15 years. Despite a recent dip in for-profit institutions, adult enrollment at private institutions increased by 247 percent from 1998 to 2013, with for-profit colleges being the primary contributor to the growth of this sector.

    Note: For-profit institutions’ data are available for Title IV (Federal Student Aid program) participating institutions only and do not reflect the total for-profit enrollment.

Figure 3.6

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  • 3.6. Black and Hispanic Student Enrollment Share: Tennessee Public Institutions (1998-2014)
    Black and Hispanic Student Enrollment Share Data
  • Black and Hispanic Student Enrollment Share Data
  • Ethnic diversity in the student body is related to a number of educational outcomes, and is reflective of a commitment to equal access to education for all demographic groups. Reflecting the changes in the Tennessee’s population and the subpopulation of young people (Figure 1.9), the race and ethnicity profile of higher education students in the state has changed over time.

    Figure 3.6 shows a steady, if small, increase in nonwhite student participation in public higher education. Between 1998 and 2014, the enrollment share of Black students increased from 16.9 percent to 18.5 percent at public universities, and from 15.6 percent to 16.9 percent at community colleges. The small share of Hispanic students has also steadily increased at both types of institutions, reflecting both demographic shifts and changes in the college-going behavior of Hispanic high school graduates.