Research News

‘Drive to 55’ is focus of new Vanderbilt research with UT-Knoxville 

“Drive to 55” is an effort to increase college attainment in Tennessee. (iStock)

Researchers at Vanderbilt are partnering with colleagues at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to research the effectiveness of initiatives developed under the state’s “Drive to 55” campaign.

Carolyn Heinrich

The research partnership, made possible with a $400,000 grant, will establish the Tennessee Postsecondary Evaluation and Analysis Research Lab, or TN-PEARL this fall. TN-PEARL will analyze how state, local and institutional policies can raise postsecondary educational attainment and whether recent policies are effectively increasing postsecondary attainment and returns.

Lead investigator for Vanderbilt is Carolyn Heinrich, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics at Vanderbilt’s  Peabody College of education and human development.

“We want to create an analytical framework that will help us to understand both the individual and collective impacts of the campaign,” Heinrich said. “This is important to helping the state understand how it can best invest our public resources going forward, and how we can maximize the number of people helped to complete education, attain valued credentials, and realize the returns to these investments in the labor market.”

“Drive to 55” was created in 2013 with the goal of having 55 percent of working-age Tennesseans holding a postsecondary credential by 2025. The three largest initiatives created under the campaign are Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect and the Tennessee Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP).

TN-PEARL aims to inform national research, policy agendas and communities about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of initiatives that seek to convert “no college” or “some college” individuals into degree-holding workers.