Tennessee Chamber Creates New College Choice Tool

National higher education leaders have collaborated with Tennessee agencies to create a new tool that will help aspiring college students evaluate campuses and programs based on earning potential, workforce demand and other local factors.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry joined forces together to collaborate with Gallup and the American Institutes for Research to develop the online resource, dubbed Launch My Career, which was officially unveiled at the end of June. The Tennessee-specific website — launchmycareertn.org — is among the first in the country, according to a statement from the organization.

“College is one of the biggest investments Tennesseans make, and they want some idea of what kind of job they can expect to find after graduation,” Bradley Jackson, interim president of the state chamber, said in the statement. “At the same time, companies want a workforce trained in the skills they need, so they too have a vested interest in Tennessee’s college graduates.”

The website, Jackson said, accomplishes both goals simultaneously. State leaders expect to encourage advisers across the state to use the tool as Tennessee’s next crop of high school graduates inches toward higher education.

Several state leaders participated in an event to celebrate the launch on Tuesday, including Burns Phillips, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Russ Deaton, interim executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Mark Schneider, vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, helped develop the web tool. He said it will allow students to compare and contrast key details as they make decisions with far-reaching consequences: what to study and where to study it.

The state has considered the intersection of higher education and workforce demand for some time. But bringing the data from different state agencies together in a user-friendly format could encourage more students to confront those issues themselves.

“This is a big step forward in ease of use and trying to speak to students rather than speak to policymakers,” Schneider said. “Students ultimately are the ones that are making the choices and they’re the ones that will have to bear the consequences of the decisions they make.”

Schneider predicted that having access to the data could improve a student’s chances of succeeding in his or her chosen degree program. He added that it might encourage some students to pursue programs outside of the liberal arts, including offerings at technical colleges.

Reach Adam Tamburin at 615-726-5986 and on Twitter @tamburintweets.


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