Current college enrollment and completion trends reveal that not enough Tennessee students are making it to and through college. Most jobs today require a college degree or career credential, so we must increase the number of Tennesseans who complete education beyond high school.

Our data playbook — Community-Based College Success Programs: A Playbook For Data-Driven Student Support — is your playbook. We created the playbook to highlight programs across Tennessee that are increasing college enrollment and completion by using data as their guide. To give you an idea of how you can establish similar work in your community, this week we’re looking at the impact of tnAchieves.

Originally launched as knoxAchieves in 2008, tnAchieves is the partnering organization to Tennessee Promise in 90 counties and 600 high schools in Tennessee. The program expands postsecondary access and completion for students across the state through several high-impact strategies: targeted communication, intensive summer programming, and ongoing one-on-one coaching.

Targeted Communication

tnAchieves provides targeted communication about Tennessee Promise, FAFSA, and the college-going process to students, families, and others throughout the school year and summer months. Meetings are one important way to communicate with students, and tnAchieves hosts three meetings for each Tennessee Promise cohort. Students are paired with a volunteer mentor who regularly checks in and provides guidance on the college process. In addition, each student receives personalized messages reminding them about FAFSA and other Tennessee Promise deadlines. These personalized reminders have contributed to a 90 percent FAFSA completion rate by students who have submitted a Tennessee Promise application.

Summer Supports For Underprepared High School Graduates

tnAchieves hosts three summer programs each year: Summer Bridge, a three-week bootcamp for students who require academic remediation and support; Summer Institute, a 10-week program to address summer melt for students who may be the most underprepared for college; and the new online Summer Success Course (launched during the pandemic as an alternative to in-person Summer Bridge), an 18-day program that allows students to improve reading, English, and math skills in order to test out of remedial coursework in the fall.

Data-Driven Coaching At Scale

In 2018, tnAchieves launched COMPLETE, a data-driven coaching model for the most at-risk Tennessee Promise students. While all Tennessee Promise students receive ongoing communication and mentoring, students with an estimated family contribution of zero on their FAFSA get additional support from a dedicated Success Coach.

Coach communication with students is defined by interventions and connections. An intervention is defined as an attempt to reach a student by phone, text, or email. A connection is defined as having a conversation with a student that results in acquiring new knowledge that can be stored and used to inform outreach to the student. Coaches log interventions and connections and other information in real time in a Salesforce student database and use data to identify challenges and prioritize interventions to students.

Impacting Persistence And Completion

tnAchieves reports that first-time full-time students receiving support their support persisted through their first year at a community college at a rate of 67 percent, compared to 53 percent of students not receiving support from tnAchieves. Students attending community college and receiving support from tnAchieves have a six-year graduation rate of 51 percent, nearly double the rate of students not receiving support from tnAchieves.

The guiding principles and examples of community programs in the playbook can help you drive college completion in your community. Check it out and consider how you can learn from the examples in the playbook.

Dr. Richard Bailey is SCORE’s director of strategic practice and data.SCORE’s communications manager, Diane Hughes, contributed to this post. 

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