Tennessee has a reputation for being a leader in reform efforts to improve education at both the K–12 and postsecondary levels. Through the “Drive to 55” education initiative, Governor Bill Haslam has put the improvement of Tennessee’s higher education at the center of his tenure. The initiative challenges the state to increase the percentage of adults with postsecondary credentials from 36% to 55% by 2025. In pursuit of this effort, Tennessee has introduced several collegegoing and postsecondary completion initiatives, including changing the delivery of developmental coursework, offering free community college tuition for recent high school graduates, recruiting adults without degrees to reenter institutions of higher education, and better aligning postsecondary offerings with workforce opportunities across the state.
College Measures’ new EduTrendsTN website (http://www.edutrendstn.com), developed in partnership with the State of Tennessee, supports these initiatives by providing prospective students and their families with information about higher education costs, benefits, and affordability and delivering insights into employment demand and wage potential across many fields. This website delivers important information to Tennesseans so they can make better informed decisions about their choices of colleges, credentials, and fields of study. The EduTrendsTN project should also increase consumers’ awareness of careers in high demand and where students who complete various kinds of postsecondary credentials will be more likely to find jobs.
This report highlights just some of the information that can be found on the EduTrendsTN website (http://www.edutrendstn.com). The following are some of the noteworthy findings from our study on the labor market success of postsecondary education completers.
• Nearly 90,000 bachelor’s degrees were granted during the five academic years (from Academic Year 2006–07 to Academic Year 2010–11) covered for this report. While bachelor’s degrees are the most commonly awarded postsecondary credentials in the state’s public system of higher education, more than 84,000 subbaccalaureate credentials—including associate’s degrees, diplomas, and certificates—were awarded from 2006–07 to 2010–11. Subbaccalaureate credentials are often designed to prepare students for careers in a specific field related to postsecondary training that students received.
• Among the 10 associate’s degree programs with the highest number of completers statewide, those in four of the programs earned wages that were below the state median for all associate’s degrees 1 and 5 years after graduation. The four programs were Business Administration, Business Operations, Liberal Arts, and Management Information Services. Of these, graduates with degrees in Management Information Services also experienced the lowest rate of wage growth among the 10 largest programs.
• Among bachelor’s graduates, there is wide variation in the earnings associated with different instructional programs. In contrast, there is less variation across the earnings of graduates from different universities across the state. This may reflect the facts that graduates from universities tend to be less tied to the local labor market and many graduates from institutions in smaller markets may migrate to larger ones. But the fact remains that if students don’t get into the University of Tennessee, Knoxville—the state’s flagship university—they can graduate from many other universities across the state and do as well in the labor market.
Labor Market Demand for Postsecondary Completers
• In some fields, many more people are completing training than will likely find employment in that field. In other fields, the state projects many more openings relative to the number of people with the training to fill those openings. The fields of Cosmetology and Journalism are projected to have large numbers of students completing education or training relative to the number of job openings projected to exist. These are relatively low paying fields, but some fields with large numbers of completers relative to openings are high paying—for example, Aviation Maintenance, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical/Computer Engineering, and Business Management.
View the full report here