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The Tennessee college-going rate, the share of high school graduates who enrolled in college immediately after graduation, rose for the Class of 2022, according to a new report from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

The college-going rate for the most recent class is 54.3 percent, a one-and-a-half-percentage-point increase compared to the Class of 2021. It’s the largest statewide increase since the launch of Tennessee Promise, a free community college program, in 2015. The college-going rate has also increased across racial groups and genders. Black students of both genders, Latina students and white men all had college-going rates that surpassed the level of statewide growth.

This development marks a departure from troubling trends last year. The percentage of Tennessee public high school graduates who enrolled in college in fall 2021 was 52.8 percent, down from 56.8 percent the year prior, the lowest rate since the commission began tracking these data in 2011.

Robert M. Smith, interim executive director of Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said in a press release that he was “thrilled” about the report’s findings.

“This achievement reflects the collective efforts of our state’s students, families, educators, and policymakers,” he said. “By fostering a college-going culture and ensuring equitable access to higher education, we are empowering Tennessee's future workforce and strengthening our communities.”