MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT) -- WMOT News continues a series of stories that examine those small slices of the Tennessee economy that have prospered during hard times.
Public higher education in Tennessee experienced remarkable growth during the economic downturn. The state’s two public systems, the Tennessee Board of Regents system and the University of Tennessee system, both experienced significant enrollment increases over the past five years
The Tennessee Board of Regent’s six universities, and its dozens of community colleges and technical schools, saw a 19 percent surge in student enrollment between 2007 and 2011, three times the growth experienced in the previous five years.
The UT system experienced more modest growth, but still saw enrollment increase by about six percent at a time when unemployment rose to historic levels.
Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan says several factors contributed to the increase. He says people who lost jobs suddenly had the time to complete an unfinished degree, while those who still had jobs worried about keeping them.
“People began to understand better that education credentials positioned them to be more competitive in the economy.”
Chancellor Morgan notes that not all the news has been good for Tennessee higher education. While enrollment has increased dramatically in recent years, state funding for higher education has fallen just as dramatically, forcing schools to raise tuition to make up the lost revenue.