Center for Business and Economic Research and THEC Reports

While higher education has many important benefits, preparation for the workforce remains a primary reason that Tennessee students pursue postsecondary education and training. Indeed, according to a national survey of entering freshmen, nearly nine out of ten students report that “to be able to get a better job” is “very important” in their decision-making process about college.

Because occupational preparation is such an important function of higher education, THEC routinely partners with the Center for Business & Economic Research (CBER) at UT-Knoxville and the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development to produce reports highlighting the intersection between postsecondary education and the state’s labor market. Typically, THEC provides data on postsecondary completers, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development provides data from the Unemployment Insurance system on the employment and earnings of workers, and CBER puts the information together.

This arrangement has produced several reports that are archived here: a three-part series on the labor market outcomes of recent college graduates; a report on the supply and demand for recent college graduates by degree level and academic discipline; a special report on the supply and demand for teachers in the state; and a study of students who drop out of higher education. (Why do they drop out? When do they do so? What happens to them afterward?) Additionally, CBER assisted THEC with developing projections of future expenditures in the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program.

This site will be updated as additional related reports become available. If you have questions about any of these reports or ideas for future studies, please contact David L Wright, THEC’s chief policy officer at

Institutional Feedback Reports: Higher Education Graduates’ Employment Outcomes in the Tennessee Labor Market

Pursuant to statutory directive, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) have jointly prepared the following institutional feedback reports on the labor market outcomes of recent graduates from the state’s public institutions. The analyses provided here enable the reader to examine employment and earnings differentials for higher education graduates across different academic disciplines within the same degree level by institution, by system or at the overall state level. Conversely, analysis of labor market differences is also possible across degree levels within the same academic field.

These reports represent a valuable resource in the following ways:

  • As consumer information for students and their families as they weigh important choices relative to academic majors and future career paths.
  • As a counseling resource for high school and college academic and career advisors who are responsible for putting students in touch with accurate information and must be well-informed themselves as a reliable resource for students.
  • As a ready reference for state political leaders and higher education policymakers as they attempt to calibrate the state’s supply of human capital with the future demand for workers with various levels of postsecondary education and training.

A Profile of Non-Completers in Tennessee Higher Education (June 2012)

The Tennessee economy’s ability to compete with the rest of the U.S. and the world depends on the state’s ability to develop and retain a highly skilled labor force. The state’s two-year and four-year institutions of higher education are key components of the state’s strategy to create and sustain an amply-skilled labor force. This report provides a thorough analysis of college completion and labor market outcomes for two recent cohorts of Tennessee public postsecondary students.

The study profiles college completers and non-completers throughout the state and also characterizes the economic (i.e. earnings) gains from college persistence and completion. We undertake a careful analysis of all students who began as first-time freshmen at any one of the state’s public institutions of higher education in 2002 for the 2002/2003 school year and in 2003 for school year 2003/04. We explore a series of important outcomes for these students, including their: persistence through college, time of exit or degree completion, and earnings if they are working in the Tennessee economy. Each student’s experience is tracked within and across campuses and into the labor force. We analyze student education and work experience outcomes through the end of calendar year 2010.

Academic Program Supply and Occupational Demand Projections: 2008-2018 (April 2011)

In support of the 2010-2015 Public Agenda for Tennessee Higher Education, the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville worked with THEC to complete a comprehensive analysis of labor market trends for Tennessee postsecondary education graduates. The study provides employment supply and demand projections from 2008-2018 by discipline and degree level, providing a focus for institutions to calibrate program offerings to current and projected labor market conditions within the state and help policymakers to reduce and eliminate program duplication.

A Forecast of Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Expenditures (August 2010)

This report provides estimates of expected annual expenditures under the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship programs for academic years 2010-2011 through 2013-2014.

Supply and Demand for Teachers in Tennessee (December 2009)

This report provides estimates of teacher supply and demand for every Local Education Agency (LEA) in Tennessee for each school year from 2009-2010 through 2013-2014. The estimates were prepared to assist in local and state planning as the required hiring and development of new teachers is identified.

The report includes a brief description of the methodologies that were used to estimate teacher supply, demand, and the gap between the two. The gap represents the number of teachers that must be hired to meet the increased demand as the number of students grows and to also meet the vacancies that arise as teachers leave the Tennessee education workforce. The gap should be interpreted as the number of new teachers that must be hired per year in each LEA, and the state total, if we are to continue meeting Tennesseans’ demands for education and teachers.

School-to-Work: Do Tennessee's Higher Education Graduates Work in Tennessee?

Part 1. State-level Labor Market and Earnings Trends (April 2007)

As the state continues to make investments to educate students, conduct research, improve the economy and quality of life of state residents, and prepare students for the work force, the question arises: how much does Tennessee’s economy benefit by Tennessee’s higher education graduates working in the state? The first installment of this multi-part project combines and matches the records of the degrees awarded in Tennessee to the workers in Tennessee during snapshots of time after the degree was awarded. Part 1 examines the propensity of Tennessee’s higher education graduates (both in-state students and out-of-state students, regardless of institution) to work in the state after graduation, and if they do, provides information about full-time or part-time employment status and earnings.

Part 2. Employment and Earnings Trends by Institution (October 2007)

This second installment this three-part project studying Tennessee's higher education graduates focuses on comparisons among Tennessee's public institutions of higher education. To facilitate meaningful and readable comparisons, most of the following analysis examines broad groups of schools, focusing on four major affiliations of Tennessee's public institutions: The University of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents Universities, and Tennessee Board of Regents Community Colleges. A breakdown of labor participation and wage data for each individual institution can be found in the Appendix, where data from three points in time are reported to provide snapshots over time of each institution’s graduates.

Part 3. Employment and Earnings Trends by Field of Study (January 2008)

This is the final installment in a three-part series of reports for a project studying graduates of Tennessee&'s public institutions of higher education. Part 1 explored overall trends in workforce participation and wages for graduates obtaining degrees from these institutions. Part 2 focused on comparing these trends across the three major affiliations of Tennessee's public institutions: The University of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents Universities, and Tennessee Board of Regents Community Colleges.

This third installment of the project focuses on the various fields of study that these graduates pursued and labor and wage trends for graduates in these fields over time. This report focuses on work and earnings trends for 35 broad fields of study. The trends for each field will be reported by degree level (Associate, Bachelor, Master, Education Specialist, Doctorate, and Professional). Considerable differences in workforce participation exist among the various fields of study. Graduates in the fields of Education and Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences are more likely to stay in Tennessee after graduation and enter the workforce compared to most of the other fields at each degree level, with the exception of the medical professional degree. However, the decline in workforce participation over time is similar across most fields.