THEC Fact Book Shows Nearly 70,00 Adult College Students in Tennessee

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has released the 2015-16 Tennessee Higher Education Adult Student Fact Book highlighting trends among adult learners in the state and how programs such as Tennessee Reconnect are shaping the path to the Drive to 55.

The publication includes information about the 57,176 adult students enrolled at public institutions, as well as the 11,486 adult learners enrolled at institutions with the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA). This year’s Adult Student Fact Book includes expanded data from TICUA institutions, including breakdowns of how many adult learners are enrolled at each college or university. The report features updated institution profiles that highlight the total number of adult learners and degree/certificates awarded to adults at public higher education institutions. The Fact Book includes the adult learner contact person for all public universities and community colleges in Tennessee.

“Without adult learners, we don’t reach the Drive to 55,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “We are committed to providing resources through Tennessee Reconnect to serve adult learners and increase their educational attainment. The Adult Student Fact Book provides THEC and the state’s colleges and universities with context and a roadmap for how adults are shaping the Drive to 55 at institutions across the state.”

Among the highlights of the report’s data snapshot (all adult learners are students age 25 and above):

  • Public higher education in Fall 2015 enrolled 57,176 adult learner undergraduate students across all sectors, including full-time and part-time students:
    • 11,014 students at Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs)
    • 24,773 students at community colleges
    • 21,389 students at public universities
  • Among adult learners at public institutions in Fall 2015, only 3 percent were entering public higher education for the first time during that semester; 97 percent had enrolled the prior semester or at least one semester before.
  • The public institutions with the largest adult learner undergraduate headcount:
    • Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT): TCAT Livingston 2,701 adults (56.2% of total headcount)
    • Community college: Nashville State Community College, 4,623 adults (43.3% of total headcount)
    • Universities: Middle Tennessee State University, 4,518 adults (19.9% of total headcount)
      • Austin Peay State University had a higher total percentage of adult learners at 29.5% of total headcount, for a total of 2,988 adult learners
  • Among adult learners enrolled at a community college or university, 23.2% were enrolled at an off-campus site, compared to 8% of all undergraduate students.

The Adult Student Fact Book will be distributed to adult learner contacts at institutions across the state and will also be an important resource to professionals working with Tennessee Reconnect initiatives, including advisors with the Tennessee Reconnect Communities. The Adult Student Fact Book parallels data provided in the 2015-16 Tennessee Higher Education Fact Book, which was released by THEC in May.   The 2015-16 Tennessee Higher Education Adult Student Fact Book is available on THEC’s website.


The Tennessee Higher Education Commission was created in 1967 by the Tennessee General Assembly.  The Commission develops, implements, and evaluates postsecondary education policies and programs in Tennessee while coordinating the state’s systems of higher education. There are nine public universities, two special purpose institutes, 13 community colleges, and 27 colleges of applied technology in Tennessee that educate nearly 250,000 students annually.


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