Increasing Postsecondary Access and Success: Tennessee Higher Education Commission


December 7th, 11 a.m. EST

To support Tennessee’s mission to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s (THEC) Division of College Access and Success was established in 2005 to bring together many of the state’s college access and success initiatives. The Division designs and implements programs and initiatives with the goal of empowering communities, local education agencies, and other partner organizations to create a statewide culture of college-going and attainment. The Division administers the state GEAR UP TN grant,, Path to College Events, Advise TN, Tennessee’s Electronic Transcript Exchange, and the Tennessee Promise Forward college retention initiative. Through these programs, the Division provides college access and success resources and services to over 75,000 students annually. This webinar provided a comprehensive overview of two of these programs: Path to College Events and Advise TN.

Since implementing College Application Week as a pilot in Tennessee’s 2005 GEAR UP TN project, THEC has scaled four Path to College Events focused on key college-going milestones: College Planning Night (planning), College Application Week (applying), Tennessee FAFSA Frenzy (paying), and College Signing Day (going). This year, THEC is partnering with elementary and middle school counselors to expand Path to College implementation statewide. In the 2016 – 2017 school year, 312 schools participated in at least one event. That number increased to over 700 schools in the current academic year.

Most recently, THEC partnered with the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, nonprofit organizations, and school counselors across the state to implement TN FAFSA Frenzy, a comprehensive campaign to increase the number of Tennessee students who complete the FAFSA. Last year, 73.5 percent of Tennessee seniors submitted the FAFSA, a full 8.7 percentage points ahead of other states.

As a direct result of positive outcomes realized in implementing state GEAR UP projects, THEC received state funding to replicate and test promising college access and success interventions in select high schools through a program called Advise TN. In collaboration with high schools and college access organizations, Advise TN provides services in 30 high-need high schools by embedding a full-time college adviser on the faculty. The program officially launched in October 2016.

Early Advise TN student outcomes are promising. In the first year of implementation, the FAFSA completion rate at Advise TN high schools increased 9 percentage points for Tennessee Promise applicants and 7 percentage points for all students. By the November 1, 2017 Tennessee Promise application deadline, 96 percent of Advise TN seniors had completed the scholarship application, compared to a 85 percent completion rate among all public high school seniors. This also represents a 15 percentage point increase over the number of Tennessee Promise applications submitted at Advise TN schools prior to the start of the program. Furthermore, the proportion of seniors meeting all Tennessee Promise requirements increased at Advise TN schools during the first year of implementation. Based on student and adviser survey data, THEC anticipates an increase in the college-going rates at Advise TN schools once those data are available in early 2018.