With Tennessee’s college-going rate in decline — nine percentage points over the last two years — there’s an increased urgency to build stronger coordination between K-12 and higher education. Greater Together Clarksville is one example of how K-12 and higher ed can work together to ensure more students are able to access and succeed in the postsecondary pathway of their choice. 

Through the Friday’s Focus podcast, SCORE seeks to highlight cutting-edge ideas and practices that can make a difference for students. The latest episode of Friday’s Focus takes a closer look at Greater Together Clarksville and how it’s making a difference for students.

Greater Together Clarksville was established in the spring of 2021, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) and three area postsecondary institutions — TCAT-Dickson, Nashville State Community College-Clarksville, and Austin Peay State University (APSU). Through ambitious goals, strategic use of data to track student progress, and regular touch points to communicate and problem solve, this partnership aims to identify and remove barriers to students’ postsecondary success. 

In the fall of 2021, the Greater Together partners established a data-sharing memorandum of understanding (MOU) that permits tnAchieves to share the following student-level data about Tennessee Promise-eligible high school seniors:

  • FAFSA submission status
  • Applications submitted to each partner postsecondary institution
  • Summer bridge applications and enrollment
  • Fall enrollment at each partner postsecondary institution         

tnAchieves manages the data in a customized Salesforce dashboard. Each higher education partner has access to data for students who have applied to their institution or listed their institution on the Tennessee Promise application.

Already, this access to student-level data has allowed CMCSS and its partners to quickly intervene and keep high school seniors on the path to postsecondary education. For example, last spring, CMCSS used results from their senior survey and information from the dashboard to identify 120 students who had expressed interest in attending one of the partner postsecondary institutions but had not yet applied. By sharing this information with partner institutions, outreach to these students was offered to support them with submitting their applications.

Starting in the summer of 2021, Austin Peay began providing summer bridge programming for incoming CMCSS graduates. By following the data, Greater Together can track the success of students who complete the bridge program to evaluate its effectiveness and make adjustments to future programming.

Additionally, staff members from each partner postsecondary institution support CMCSS’s college and career readiness efforts by assisting with FAFSA completion events, attending Senior Parent Nights, and hosting exclusive acceptance events at each high school. Starting this fall, Greater Together Clarksville will send out letters to the families of all CMCSS seniors informing them of postsecondary opportunities available in their community.

Although the partnership is still relatively new, Greater Together Clarksville appears to be having an impact. Enrollment is up in the Nashville State-Clarksville and the Austin Peay summer bridge programs compared to last summer. The number of CMCSS seniors who completed the FAFSA by the end of the school year has also increased compared to last year. While it’s too early to assess the partnership’s impact on postsecondary enrollment, partners are hopeful that fall enrollment numbers will be higher than last year.

Greater Together Clarksville is one example of how K-12 and higher education systems can collaborate to guide and support students from high school through their postsecondary pathway of choice. Learn more Greater Together Clarksville by watching the latest episode of Friday’s Focus.

Dr. Richard Bailey is SCORE’s director of strategic practice and data.

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