Report: Tennessee could do more to help improve degrees, certificates attainment

Published 9:32 am Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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New data show how many people pursue degrees or other credentials after high school, and the numbers show the Volunteer State has some work to do to improve.
Lumina Foundation tracks higher-education attainment, and says 60% of working-age adults should be earning some kind of post-high-school degree. Right now, that number is just over 47% in Tennessee and just over 54% nationwide.
Courtney Brown, vice president of impact and planning with Lumina Foundation, said the research shows the nation is making steady progress toward the 60% goal.
“We moved from 38.1% when we began to 54.3%; that represents a 16 percentage point increase in just 14 years. And that’s a collective commitment and dedication to education from partners all across the country,” she said.
Brown added that 42 states along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico saw an uptick in degree attainment last year. The increase was more than 1% in 19 states, including Tennessee. The state goal is to reach 55% of adults with a degree or certificate by 2025.
The report shows more than 43% of white Tennesseans have college degrees, compared with more than 31% of Black residents and 27% of Hispanics. Brown notes an equity gap remains in Tennessee and across the country.
“While we’ve made incredible progress toward that, we’re getting closer and closer, we’re still seeing stubborn equity gaps, with Black and Hispanic Americans sitting on one end of the spectrum to white and Asian American sitting on the other,” Brown continued.
Brown said that nationwide, just over 10% of Black Americans had a graduate degree in the most recent data, from 2022. Back in 2009, the figure was only 6%.

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