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VOL. 37 | NO. 2 | Friday, January 11, 2013

Haslam announces higher ed goal, names new adviser

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday that he wants to put Tennessee on a path toward boosting college graduation rates by 23 percentage points by the year 2025.

Haslam said the state's current rate of 32 percent of adults holding a post-secondary degree is not enough to meet the requirements of the modern job market. The Republican governor said he wants to improve that number to 55 percent over the next dozen years.

"It is an ambitious goal, but if we're going to compete we're going to have to do that," Haslam told reporters after speaking to a Boy Scouts group in Wilson County. "I've always said college is not for everybody, but it has to be for more Tennesseans than it has in the past.

"And if 60 percent of the new jobs that are being created are going to require a degree, then we need to have a population that mirrors that," he said.

Haslam appointed Randy Boyd, chairman of Knoxville-based wireless pet fence mak er Radio Systems Corp., to become his top higher education adviser.

Boyd will join a working group tasked with finding ways to tackle what the governor called the "iron triangle" of affordability, access and quality issues for public colleges and universities in Tennessee.

"Is the path we're on now going to get us there?" Haslam said. "The answer is no."

The panel is made up the governor and the heads of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee systems.

Boyd, 53, will work for the administration full-time but has volunteered to work without pay.

In 2009, Boyd co-founded the tnAchieves, a non-profit mentoring and scholarship organization that has paid the full community college tuition of more than 3,200 high school graduates. Sixty-eight percent of those students have been the first in their families to attend college.

"I am passionate about improving educational opportunity fo r all our citizens," Boyd said in a release. "To achieve the governor's mission, we will need to broaden the net and to provide greater access."

Boyd, 53, founded Radio Systems in 1991. The privately-held company makes technology-based pet products like PetSafe and Invisible Fence.