Profiles and Trends Section IV. Student Progression and Success

Figure 4.1

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  • 4.1. One-year Retention Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions: Freshman Cohorts Fall 2009 – Fall 2013

    One-year Retention Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions: Freshman Cohorts Fall 2009 – Fall 2013
  • One-year Retention Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions: Freshman Cohorts Fall 2009 – Fall 2013 Data
  • This section uses three indicators of student progression and success: one-year retention rate, six-year graduation rate, and awards earned by demographic group (Figures 4.1-4.5). The one-year retention rate (the proportion of freshmen who continue their studies into the fall of their sophomore year) is important because it is linked to the probability of graduation, and has implications for outcomes-based funding.

    Figure 4.1 shows that the one-year retention rate is much higher in public universities than in community colleges across major racial/ethnic groups. Although white students generally have a higher retention rate than other groups in public universities, Hispanic students’ retention in two-year institutions is almost identical, eclipsing white students’ performance in two out of the four last years. Black students trail the other groups on this indicator, almost catching up with Hispanics in public universities in fall of 2014. Retention of Black students at community colleges has been consistently low, below 50 percent.

Figure 4.2

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  • 4.2. Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions: Freshman Cohorts 1993–2009
    Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions: Freshman Cohorts 1993–2009 Data
  • Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions: Freshman Cohorts 1993–2009 Data
  • The six-year graduation rate is a common measure of student success and institutional productivity. In Tennessee, this metric is essential for meeting educational attainment goals set by the Drive to 55 and for public colleges’ outcomes-based funding. Traditionally, two-year institutions have lower graduation rates than their four-year counterparts. This is due to student demographics, lower retention rates, higher transfer-out rates, and the enrollment of many students who do not intend to pursue an associate degree.

    Figure 4.2 shows the six-year graduation rate for each full-time freshman cohort from 1993 (graduation through 1998-99) through 2009 (graduation through 2014-15). The new metric, which uses additional data from the National Student Clearinghouse, has been applied since the 2005 cohort. Thus, the more recent graduation rates are not directly comparable to those prior to 2005. There has been a slight drop in the six-year graduation rate for 2014-15 graduates in both institutional sectors.

Figure 4.3

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  • 4.3. Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions by Race / Ethnicity: Freshman Cohorts 2005–2009

    Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions by Race / Ethnicity: Freshman Cohorts 2005–2009 Data
  • Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions by Race / Ethnicity: Freshman Cohorts 2005–2009 Data
  • The overall six-year graduation rate (Figure 4.2) masks differences among demographic groups. Sorting this indicator into various categories—racial/ethnic, gender, and income groups—allows for a closer look at how institutional sectors are serving students in terms of their measureable college success.

    Figure 4.3 presents six-year graduation rates for freshman cohorts of Black, Hispanic, and white students from 2005 through 2009. The dotted lines for the average sectoral rates correspond to the ones in Figure 4.2.

    At public universities and community colleges, white students perform better than average, while graduation rates for Black students are below average. Hispanic students are below average in universities, but are generally on par with the average rate at community colleges. These trends have been consistent over time. Since 2005, white students’ performance has stayed the same. In 2009, Black students experienced a drop in both sectors, and Hispanic students showed a decline in universities.

Figure 4.4

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  • 4.4. Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions by Gender, Race / Ethnicity, and Pell Eligibility: 2009 Cohort
    Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions by Gender, Race / Ethnicity, and Pell Eligibility: 2009 Cohort Data
  • Six-year Graduation Rate for Tennessee Public Institutions by Gender, Race / Ethnicity, and Pell Eligibility: 2009 Cohort Data
  • Characteristics such as gender, race, and socioeconomic status greatly affect students’ likelihood of graduation. Figures showing graduation rates for these subpopulations allow legislators and other decision makers to see how likely different types of students are to graduate, and determine where improvements need to be made.

    Figure 4.4 shows the six-year graduation rate for the 2009 freshman cohort by gender, race/ethnicity, and Pell eligibility. For every group, graduation rate at public universities is much higher than at two-year institutions. Females graduate at a higher rate than males in both institutional sectors. White students have the highest graduation rate, followed by Hispanic and Black students. As expected, students who qualify for federal Pell grants do not graduate as often as those students who do not qualify for Pell. The graduation rate of Pell-eligible enrollees averages 34.2 percent for all public institutions, and is much lower than the statewide average of 42.9 percent (not shown on the graph).

Figure 4.5

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  • 4.5. Total Awards by Award Type, Gender, Race / Ethnicity, and Pell Eligibility (2014-2015)
    Total Awards by Award Type, Gender, Race / Ethnicity, and Pell Eligibility (2014-2015)Data
  • Total Awards by Award Type, Gender, Race / Ethnicity, and Pell Eligibility (2014-2015) Data
  • The relationship between educational attainment and economic vitality (Figure 1.1) provides for the need to increase the number of postsecondary degrees. Understanding what types of degrees are awarded is an important part of examining progress toward the Drive to 55.

    Figure 4.5 shows the distribution of degrees awarded at public Tennessee institutions in 2014-15, by select student demographics. The most common award across all demographic groups is the bachelor’s degree; the associate degree generally holds the second position. Although, in absolute numbers, white students earn more awards than nonwhite students, and females earn more degrees than males, the distribution of awards within each group differs only slightly. For adult students, the share of bachelor’s degrees is smaller than the combined share of certificates and associate degrees. Of note, adults earn lower-level certificates at nearly the same rate as traditional age students. Pell-eligible students earn associate degrees in a greater proportion than any other demographic.