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ERIC Number: EJ990498
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Oct-1
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
With State Support Now Tied to Completion, Tennessee Colleges Must Refocus
Kelderman, Eric
Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct 2012
Before last year, public colleges in Tennessee had a very good reason to fill classroom seats through the first couple of weeks of the term. Each institution's share of the state appropriations for higher education was largely based on enrollment at that point in the semester. Now, however, those colleges stand to lose state money if students do not complete the courses they enroll in, as well as the degrees they are seeking. Under a 2010 law, Tennessee became the first state to appropriate nearly all of the state's tax dollars for higher education based on institutional outcomes, such as credit completions and graduation rates. That law puts the Volunteer State at the forefront of a movement to reward colleges that produce more degree holders. Just two years into the new policy, it is already changing how colleges work to retain students and produce graduates, with several institutions overhauling their approach to remedial education, for example. And despite assurances against grade inflation or lowering standards, some faculty members are feeling the pressure to make sure their students get through the course. Some colleges are also beginning to see the payoff from meeting the state's goals, but the new formula is also creating losers in terms of state dollars. Some higher-education leaders in the state fear that the legislature will be unable or unwilling to increase the overall appropriations for higher education, about $1.4-billion for the current budget. In that case, even colleges that improve could be faced with budget cuts rather than rewards for increasing their completion rates. Since the late 1970s, about half of states, including Tennessee, have passed laws to base at least a small portion of their higher-education support on performance measures. But the amount of money at stake was too little to drive a change--usually less than 5 percent of the state's contributions to colleges. However, the most recent economic downturn, the growing national demand for college-educated workers, and calls to make higher education more efficient and accountable are pushing state lawmakers to consider more aggressive policies to improve college attainment. In 2010, Tennessee lawmakers passed the Complete College Act, a law meant to raise the percentage of state residents with a college degree to the national average by 2025. The law eliminates the state's old system of doling out money based mostly on enrollment and instead rewards colleges based on measures that vary by the level of institution.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Tennessee