Haslam’s ‘Drive to 55’ Summit Ties Economic Development, Higher Ed Graduation

Press release from the Office of Governor Bill Haslam, Sept. 21, 2015:

Governor Continues His Focus on Higher Education, Workforce

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today convened the Drive to 55 Summit for a discussion on progress made and challenges the state faces in reaching the goal of 55 percent of Tennesseans having a postsecondary degree or certificate.

Haslam first brought together higher education and workforce development leaders in 2012 and launched the Drive to 55 the next year. Today’s conversation focused on three areas: access to higher education; student completion, including for first generation students and adults; and workforce and economic development.

By 2025, 55 percent of the jobs available in Tennessee will require a postsecondary credential, and currently only 33 percent of Tennesseans qualify. The governor launched his Drive to 55 two years ago to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate.

“The Drive to 55 has changed how Tennesseans think about their future, but while progress has been made to improve access, there is still work to do to help ensure students receive their degree or credential,” Haslam said.

Since the Drive to 55 began, Tennessee has launched the Tennessee Promise, the nation’s first tuition-free community college program; launched free technical college for adults through Tennessee Reconnect; reduced the number of college freshmen requiring remediation through the SAILS program; established a comprehensive state approach to serving student veterans; and leveraged technology to enhance classroom instruction and college advising.

This year the Lumina Foundation found the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential is just under 34 percent, and the University of Tennessee Center for Economic and Business Research estimates that when Tennesseans with a technical certificate are added, that number climbs to about 38 percent.

“To reach 55 percent by 2025, we have to be engaged at all levels of higher education and across all sectors: public and private, making it a statewide priority for everyone,” Haslam added. “This is not just about access, but it’s about success. We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help students be successful and prepared to enter the workforce.”