NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the last five years, fewer high school graduates in Tennessee have been opting to go to college.
A new report by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission breaks down the numbers, with only 52.8% of students enrolled in post-secondary education in 2021.
"The college-going rate for the class of 2021 has declined 9 percentage points so about 7,000 fewer students that would have gone in previous years," said Steven Gentile, the chief policy officer for the agency.
Out of all racial groups, Latino students have the lowest college-going rate. It's the group that also saw the greatest decline in college enrollment.
Scott Campbell with Persist Nashville, a nonprofit that works to increase the college graduation rate among MNPS students, said it's a gap that already existed, but has now worsened
"It's not necessarily sharing anything that's surprising to us. But it's important for us to understand. And I do think that the drop, particularly in Latino male and Latino female enrollment, is significant and really important for us to be able to focus on," he said.
Campbell said the pandemic not only interrupted learning but also created financial difficulties for families.
"There's a particular challenge I think for many Latino males of having both the privilege but also the challenge of supporting your family financially, being the leader in that family and that's a barrier," he said.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is partnering with nonprofits like Persist to find a path forward that will help more students in TN enroll in college.
"If you can provide really focused high-quality coaching to every single student at every single high school in Tennessee then we will see drastically different outcomes for our kids," said Campbell.