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State scores badly on education

December 18, 2000

Tennessee fared poorly on its “report card” from The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonprofit group in San Jose, Calif. dedicated to research and analysis.

The report, called “Measuring Up 2000,” gave the state no higher grade than a C in any category, including preparation of residents for higher education, participation by residents in college and training, affordability of higher education, and student completion of degree and certificate programs. The report also included some sobering statistics about the state's educational level.

º Twenty-seven percent of Tennessee's 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 1998, compared to a 42 percent for the top five states.

º Only 45 percent of the first-time, full-time students in Tennessee's four-year colleges completed a bachelor's degree within five years. The average for the top five states was 66 percent.

º Just 21 percent of Tennessee residents age 25 to 65 hold at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 34 percent for the top five states.

Last month THEC asked the Tennessee legislature for an additional $44 million to fund grants for poor students, scholarships for top students and research initiatives throughout the state. THEC officals said the funds would “make college more accessible, enhance offerings and increase benefits to the state.”

Brian Noland, director of academic affairs for THEC, said in an interview with “The Tennessean” that the report's authors are “singing the same message” the commission has been been singing for years. The chorus? Tennessee needs greater emphasis on the importance of education and a higher level of funding to launch reforms and enhancements.