Tennessee Must Invest in Higher Ed (Opinion)

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, March 19, 2012

Tennessee lags behind the rest of the nation in the number of people with college degrees. But at the same time state leadership is pushing to increase the number of Tennesseans with degrees, it is cutting investment in Tennessee higher education. If the state is going to compete for future jobs that can support a middle-class standard of living, it must find a way to help the state’s public colleges and universities grow, compete for students and offer higher education at affordable tuition rates.

Education researchers at Rice University estimate that in 10 years, 60 percent of new jobs will require a college degree. Studies by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission estimate that as much as 97 percent of future jobs that will support a middle-class standard of living will require some post-secondary education. Similar studies and reports from across the nation parallel these findings.

Contrast those expectations with the fact that, according to U.S. Census reports, about 29 percent of Tennesseans have at least an associate’s degree. That compares to a national average of about 38 percent. Comparing the percentage of future jobs that will require a college degree (60 percent) with Tennessee’s current status (29 percent) shows the state is only half way to meeting employer demand.

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