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Dear High School Graduate


Congratulations on your graduation from high school!  What a significant achievement!  So, what’s next?  A job?  More education?  I know you may feel a bit burned out on the classroom right now but think about this: the current average salary for a full-time employee with a high school diploma is about $18,000 a year.  Yep, that’s it.  Just a few thousand above the poverty line.

The majority of jobs out there require some form of additional training or education.  Your pathway to success is to decide NOW to go on to some form of education beyond high school.  Think you need to put college off for a year or two?  Not so fast.  Don’t think you can make money now and then go to college later. Studies show that if you stop-out of your education pathway you are likely NEVER to go back.  The longer you wait the more difficult (and more expensive) it becomes.

Choose today where you want to continue your education this coming fall.  There are so many options to choose from!  You could choose a trade school, a community college, or a four-year university.  Governor Bill Haslam is making it easier for you through the Tennessee Promise.  Chances are you’ve already signed-up for the Tennessee Promise which provides free training at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology, free tuition at community college, or assistance for a two-year degree at a qualifying university.

You need to focus on the choice that will make you most successful.  This decision will help set the path for your future.  If you’re interested in a high quality trade you should look seriously at your local Tennessee College of Applied Technology.  If you want something that will make you eligible for a bit wider range of jobs, you should look to the offerings at a local community college.  The Tennessee Promise has removed the issue of tuition cost for both of these options so you can’t blame not going to college on the inability to pay.

If you are even remotely hoping to get a four-year degree you should start at a four-year college or university, now.  Those who start at a four-year campus are far more likely to complete a Bachelor’s degree than students who start elsewhere.  You see, the more times you move from one campus to another the more you are at risk of not finishing your degree. And a Bachelor’s degree opens a huge range of career options.

Don’t let the idea of a four-year college or university overwhelm you.  Tennessee has an incredible diversity of campuses to choose from.  There is no doubt a campus that will be the right fit for you.  There are small campuses who are super successful with students who are first-in-their-family to go to college, large campuses with a vast number of areas of study, private colleges and universities which have incredible academic support systems, and public universities – all of which have robust student financial aid which makes a college education affordable.

So here’s the good news.  Once you complete the hard work of a certificate or college degree you’ll reap an untold number of benefits!   Yes, your wages will increase (possibly as much as $1 million more over your lifetime), but as well, those with college degrees tend to live healthier lives, are much more engaged in their communities, are more likely to help those in need, tend to be a part of creating more jobs for others, and the list goes on.

Choose today where you will go to college this fall.  You’ll never regret it! 

Wishing you the best,


Dr. Claude O. Pressnell, Jr.


Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association

1031 17th Avenue South

Nashville, TN 37212

(615) 242-6400, ext. 201 (Direct line)