By BRIAN GRAVES
When it comes to Bradley County students and higher learning, the numbers appear to be headed in the right direction.That observation came from Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Flora …
When it comes to Bradley County students and higher learning, the numbers appear to be headed in the right direction.
That observation came from Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Flora Tydings, who paid a visit recently to the Rotary Club of Cleveland to talk about that and higher education across the state.
Tydings said the “Drive to 55” Initiative was “probably one of the tipping points for the state.
“In 2013 when Gov. Bill Haslam announced the ‘Drive to 55,’ he was asking all of the colleges within the state to raise the level of graduation rates from 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025,” Tydings said. “That is a heavy lift, but we’re on track to get there.”
She said 15 out of the state’s 95 counties have a “college-going” average above the national level – a number representing the number of students who go to college.
“The national ‘college-going rate’ is 66 percent,” Tydings said. “Bradley County is at 62.6 percent. Not bad.”
She also spoke of the support that the “Tennessee Promise” program now gives to students, helping to provide free college tuition.
“The conversation about attending college changed for everyone in the state when the governor put this on the table,” Tydings said. “It was not a matter of ‘Can I go to college?’ It was a matter of ‘Where?’”
She said 73.5 percent of students in the state filled out the federal forms for financial aid in 2017.
“Those numbers are considered one of the most accurate measurements on whether a student will actually go to college,” she said. “We are very proud of the fact that we were the fastest growing in the nation – untouchable in the nation. There is not another state in the nation that was able to reach that metric. Tennessee is being talked about all across the country.”
Tydings added that from the 13,287 students who entered the first Tennessee Promise class, there was a 58.3 success rate “compared to a national average of a 23 percent success rate.”
“What all of this means to you, your economy and your pocketbook is $9.33 billion in additional annual salaries paid to those students that are graduating,” she said. “When you translate that across the economy, it will be multiplied trifold.”
The chancellor noted it was just as important to the state’s goal to get adults back into the college system that want to complete degrees, which is where the “Tennessee Reconnect” program comes into play beginning in 2018.
“At Cleveland State, they have actually implemented special web pages for the adult learner, focused pathways for the adult student, been the recipient of the Veterans Reconnect grant, and have been working on prior learning assessments for all perspective adult students,” Tydings said. “This is to help those students that have acquired skills already not have to repeat courses or compentancies they may already have.”
“Cleveland State is already ahead of the game in this arena and doing an exceptional job,” she added.
Tydings also mentioned the recommendation of a $25 million revitalization grant by the Board of Regents that includes a new health and science building as well as the renovation of the Mary T. Barker Humanities Building.
“We have passed the first hurdle and made it through the recommendation process,” she said. “It has gone forward to the governor’s budget. We will know on Jan. 29 if it has made the governor’s cut. I feel pretty good because it’s in the top three, so all of you say your prayers at night. That project continues on, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
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