In 2013 tnAchieves board chairman, Randy Boyd, took a year-long leave as CEO of Radio Systems Corporation to serve as Governor Haslam’s unpaid, senior advisor on higher education. The result of his work was the creation and launch of the Drive to 55 in 2014. The mission of the Drive to 55 is to get 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. Currently, 39 percent of adults in Tennessee possess a post-secondary credential, up from 32 percent in 2014.
The signature initiative of the Drive to 55 was also announced at this time. TN Promise supports the mission of the Drive to 55 by ensuring higher education is accessible to all Tennessee high school seniors regardless of income or zip code. The program provides all students a last-dollar scholarship to our state’s 13 community colleges, 27 Tennessee colleges of applied technology and select four year public and private universities. Increasing access to higher education is one key initiative of the Drive to 55. In three years TN Promise has accepted more than 170,000 students and placed more than 33,000 students into college with assistance from the scholarship. Sixty-five percent of these students are the first in their family to attend college and nearly 70 percent come from low income households.
Other key initiatives of the Drive to 55 include ensuring students are prepared when they begin college, engaging adults with some or no college credential in the higher education pipeline and aligning higher education with workforce needs.
The state also created the Drive to 55 Alliance. This is an active and growing alliance of private sector partners, leaders and non-profits working together in support of the state’s Drive to 55 initiative to equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025. The goal of the Drive to 55 Alliance is to help generate greater private sector awareness, ownership and support for the long-term steps needed in college entry and completion, adult education and training and identifying and closing skills gaps to better prepare our workforce and our state for the future.
While the Drive to 55 Alliance actively supports all facets of the Drive to 55, much of its focus centers on the success of TN Promise. Alliance members provide mentors to TN Promise students, connect job shadowing opportunities to students and organize community service events in their service areas. Several of the state’s largest employers were founding partners and have been participating for the past three years. Now, with their leadership, we are ready to grow the Drive to 55 Alliance to include all business, industry, education and nonprofit organizations that are ready to answer the call and support Tennessee in this critical mission.
thank you to the founding members:
The Drive to 55 is much more than an education program. At its core it is an economic and workforce development program designed to entice new business and industry to our state, grow existing business and industry, and ensure every Tennessean has the opportunity for a living wage career. Please join us in our efforts as we work to accomplish this goal!