A large majority (89 percent) of Tennesseans think Gov. Bill Lee should devote as much or more time and resources on higher education and workforce development as did his predecessor, Gov. Bill Haslam, according to a statewide survey commissioned by WGU Tennessee.
“The results show there is solid support for helping more Tennesseans have access to post-secondary education and training, said Dr. Kimberly Estep, chancellor of WGU Tennessee, a state-endorsed online nonprofit university. “They also show that online degree programs are regarded highly for quality.”
Additionally, the survey found that a large majority of Tennesseans believe that Gov. Lee’s administration should make access and affordability of college and technical training a high priority, and a majority think state government should do more to ensure public school students are prepared for college-level work, while almost half say the state should increase its funding for college education.
A majority, 58 percent, think online degree programs are about the same or better than traditional, in-person programs.
Results were relatively even across the state, but among the key findings for Middle Tennessee:
- 87% of respondents from Middle Tennessee think Gov. Bill Lee’s administration should spend about the same or more time and resources on higher education and workforce development as did the Haslam administration.
- 48% of Middle Tennessean respondents think Tennessee state government should increase its funding for college education, 40% think it should be kept at current levels, and only 7% think it should be decreased.
- 38% of Middle Tennessee respondents believe Gov. Lee should strengthen the Haslam administration’s Drive to 55 initiative by devoting more resources to it, while 37% think it should be kept intact as is; only 13% think it should be replaced with a new approach, and 4% think it should be ended entirely.
- 33% of Middle Tennessean respondents think Tennessee colleges and universities provide adequate financial aid, 27% believe it is inadequate, and 31% don’t have an opinion.
- 58% of Middle Tennesseans think online college degree programs are about the same (48%) or better (9%) than a traditional in-person degree program; 33% think they are worse.
- 62% of Middle Tennessee respondents strongly agree that it is essential to have an educated workforce for Tennessee’s economy to compete with other states, and 30% somewhat agree.
Access the complete survey and results by visiting tennessee.wgu.edu/survey.
The study, conducted by the Dallas-based market research firm Dynata, surveyed 600 randomly selected registered voters who are currently employed to gauge attitudes and opinions regarding higher education issues, including financial aid for traditional and online degree programs. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
The study used a blended methodology: 350 randomly selected respondents were interviewed by telephone (35 percent landline, 65% cellphone), and 250 responses were completed through an online sample screened for demographics.
The major demographic groups within the sample were at or near proportionate to the actual adult populations in Tennessee: female 53%, male 47%; Middle Tennessee 38%, East Tennessee 37%, and West Tennessee 25%; white 81%, African-American 11%, and Hispanic/Other 5%; 18–34 years old 18%; 35–44 years old 23%; 45–64 years old 49%, and 65 and older 10%. Because the sample was screened for registered voters and those currently employed, the 18–34 age group was underrepresented and the 45–64 age group was slightly overrepresented. Also, African-Americans were slightly underrepresented.