The Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) is part of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies’ vision for the future. PERC will identify and coordinate research initiatives designed to enhance higher education at the institutional, state, and national levels. The ultimate purpose of this research is to enhance policy and practices.
While many research topics will be pursued, PERC’s highest priority is the completion agenda—how postsecondary institutions (inclusive of technical colleges, community colleges, and universities) can retain and graduate more of their students in a timely manner. The completion agenda is critical for the state of Tennessee to help us meet the goal of 55 percent of the state population with a postsecondary education certificate or degree by 2025.
PERC’s mission is critical to the improvement of higher education in Tennessee. At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, we have made significant progress in improving graduation and retention rates. At technical and community colleges across the nation, improvement of retention and graduation rates are a high priority. However, there is still much work to be done.
The center will evaluate and recommend effective strategies to improve graduation student outcomes, reduce student debt at graduation, develop strategies to more effective use of financial aid, and examine strategies such as microgrants to encourage retention of low-income students.
We are developing partnerships with organizations such as the Tennessee Board of Regents, Tennessee Achieves, the University of Tennessee System, several postsecondary institutions across the state, and our university. We are also collaborating with faculty outside of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, as well as other centers on campus such as the Boyd Center. We look forward to partnering to continue the important work of promoting and ensuring postsecondary success for all students.
Jimmy G. Cheek
J. Patrick Biddix