Nashville has seen tremendous growth in the past decade.

From an economic development perspective, the region’s economy has expanded rapidly, attracting both Fortune-listed companies and brick-and-mortar businesses into our vibrant communities. This enhanced business presence, combined with Nashville’s quality of place and livability, has led to an influx in the number of people who have moved to the region. Despite this enormous growth, Nashville, like much of the United States, is currently facing a talent deficit.

Education Levels
Expected growth rates for occupations vary by the education and training required. While all employment in the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN MSA is projected to grow 1.4% over the next ten years, occupations typically requiring a postgraduate degree are expected to grow 1.6% per year, those requiring a bachelor’s degree are forecast to gro 1.7% per year, and occupations typically needing a 2-year degree or certificate are expected to grow 1.6% year.

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Research Center found that even if every unemployed person in the Nashville region were offered employment, there would still be over 30,000 job openings. Growth like this is sustained in part by the region’s ability to prepare its own population with the skills needed to meet the needs of the local economy.

Looking ahead over the next 10 years, jobs requiring some form of credential or degree are projected to grow at a higher rate than those requiring only a high school diploma or equivalent.

This is reinforced by an August 2023 report published by The University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research on the Value of a College Education in Tennessee. The report estimates that in Davidson County, those with bachelor’s degrees earn $1.8 million more in lifetime earnings than those without any degree beyond a high school diploma. That also extends to those completing an associate degree, with those individuals making on average $689,000 more in lifetime earnings.

Reflecting on both the growth Nashville is seeing and the increasing value of education credentials and degrees, the 2023 Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Education Report Committee elected to focus on K-12 postsecondary advising.
For this report, K-12 postsecondary advising describes how students:
A) connect and explore career pathways
B) receive support in taking tangible steps to turn their postsecondary goals into a reality.

The term postsecondary education is inclusive of college, certificates, and training programs that would help young people attain their career goals.

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) has implemented several initiatives to support postsecondary attainment over the last five years. Building on MNPS’ Academies of Nashville (AON) model, which emphasizes career-connected learning, Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle released the district’s ‘Every Student Known Focused Outcomes’ with a section dedicated to student transitions. As a part of the strategy driving these outcomes, MNPS created a College and Career Readiness Division, which houses AON along with key personnel and grants that support college access within the district. Additionally, MNPS has expanded the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program across all its high schools, middle schools, and most of its elementary schools to assist teachers in building a college- and career-oriented culture. Lastly, the district launched University MNPS, which created deep partnerships with local colleges and universities that are embedded in our schools. These partnerships offer scholarship opportunities (many of them full-ride scholarships), mentorship and preparation for the college experience, and supports to ensure students’ success throughout their college journey.

Looking ahead, both MNPS and the Nashville community are coming to a crossroads.

Four of the five significant grants that support postsecondary advising across numerous schools will expire by the end of the 2025-2026 school year.
The Nashville community will need to determine whether it will bridge the gap and continue providing the resources for these student supports. Depending on the community’s aforementioned decision, the district will have to adapt its offerings to ensure that every student’s postsecondary goals are known and supported.
The Chamber’s Education Report Committee has dedicated the last five months to exploring the district’s efforts, understanding how students are making connections to and preparing for various postsecondary opportunities, and identifying the barriers and challenges along the way. In addition to the district itself, an ecosystem of community-based organizations, higher education institutions, and business partners are actively engaged in several aspects of this work. Yet, as MNPS navigates expiring grants alongside the end of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds initially meant to support school districts as they navigated and thrived during COVID, the district will need the full community’s support to continue to drive economic opportunity for students.

After extensive research and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, the committee believes the following recommendations will help ensure K-12 postsecondary advising supports by both MNPS and the broader community can lead to increased economic mobility for MNPS graduates and further the economic prosperity of the region.

Recommendation 1:

MNPS should evaluate the impacts and effectiveness of grants supporting K-12 postsecondary advising and create a plan for sustainability and scalability based on evaluation results.

Recommendation 2:

MNPS should ensure their advising strategy clearly identifies how external community partners can best augment and reinforce the district's advising efforts to ensure all students have a pathway to a successful career.

Recommendation 3:

MNPS should meaningfully encourage the full adoption of a postsecondary advising data collection and analysis mechanism available to appropriate staff and community-based partners engaged in postsecondary advising with support from state and other partners.

Recommendation 4:

The Nashville Metro Council, Tennessee state legislature, and postsecondary institutions should provide flexibility and tailor postsecondary enrollment and completion supports to better address barriers to student access and success.