The Tennessee Board of Regents has announced a $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of its efforts to increase graduation rates, with a focus on low-income and first-generation students, at colleges and universities across the state.
The grants to TBR, the governing system for the forty-six public colleges and universities in Tennessee that are not UT institutions, will support its Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a college degree by 2025 through the implementation of effective student success strategies developed at the TBR system level. Those strategies include the use of analytics to identify students who are at risk of dropping out and providing them with intense advisory support to keep them enrolled and on track to finish their degree or diploma, and helping students define their college goals from the start of their college experience by eliminating "undecided" as an option.
"We looked at the data and discovered that more than half of the students who came into our schools with an ‘undecided’ major ended up dropping out before they ever chose any program," said Tristan Denley, TBR's vice chancellor for academic affairs. "We created areas of academic focus to help students get started on a path. So a student who might have otherwise been undecided, may now instead choose from general groups of majors like health professions, business, education or STEM from which they can gradually narrow their focus. The goal is to keep more students enrolled and engaged, while ensuring that they avoid taking courses that don’t apply to what they need to graduate."