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ERIC Number: EJ992920
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jul-30
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Less Choice, More Structure for Students: In a Tennessee System, It Works
Gonzalez, Jennifer
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jul 2012
The Tennessee Technology Center system has become something of a darling among college-completion advocates. Comprising 27 locations across the state, the system boasts graduation and job-placement rates that many colleges only dream of: 75 percent and 83 percent, respectively. Such achievements are even more noteworthy given the population the system serves: racially and ethnically diverse, low-income adults--students who tend to struggle in college. The system's success has caught the attention of two-year colleges, a sector in which less than a third of students earn degrees in four years, although about a fifth of them transfer to four-year colleges during that time. Administrators from community colleges around the country--the City Colleges of Chicago; the Ivy Tech Community College system, in Indiana; and the Texas State Technical College system, for example--are trekking to Tennessee to observe the centers' rigid academic structure. Nobody thinks community colleges should turn into technical colleges. They have a broader mission, which includes preparing students for transfer and providing enrichment classes to the community. Still, the Tennessee system's model seems to help meet two pressing needs: (1) to increase graduation rates, in accordance with national goals; and (2) to better prepare students for the work force, as jobs demand more education than ever before. The system's highly structured academic environment, not unlike that of a high school, is key to its success. Rather than choose individual courses, students enroll--the majority full time--in programs with predetermined schedules. Classes meet every day for about six hours and last from several weeks to more than a year, depending on the program. Attendance is taken. Remediation is embedded in coursework. Though grouped together, students move through programs at their own pace. The structure is foreign to most traditional colleges, where students design their own schedules. While an increasing number of community colleges have taken notice of the technology-center system, some are incorporating only "bits and pieces" of the model. But a piecemeal approach to adapting the technical-system model is problematic because the synergy of several strategies is what makes it work. Without that, institutions are not going to get the results they are looking for.
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: Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Tennessee