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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tennessee community and technical colleges continued awarding degrees, diplomas and certificates at record levels this year despite the pandemic.

  • Data released last week showed a combined 22,956 given out during the latest academic year, only one behind last year's all-time high.

Why it matters: Boosting graduation numbers has been a top goal at state colleges for years since that's when students can harness their education for better jobs and earnings.

  • TBR Executive Vice Chancellor Russ Deaton told Axios he was "pleasantly surprised" to see those numbers stay high even as enrollment slowed.

Reality check: Enrollment trends show trouble ahead.

  • Community college enrollment dropped by nearly 10% last fall. Early numbers show a drop of nearly 9% this fall.
  • Technical college enrollment did increase, driven in part by high school interest in dual enrollment courses. But it wasn't enough to offset community college losses.

What's next: Deaton said college officials are currently grappling with how to stop the slide.

  • "I don't think there's a good sense yet of how we arrest that trend or what the causes of that are," Deaton told Axios.
Data: Tennessee Board of Regents; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Go deeper

Oct 17, 2021 - Health

Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, said he's reluctant to withhold federal funding from states that won't enforce school mask mandates because he doesn't want to hurt students.

Why it matters: Cardona's comments suggest there are limits to how far the Biden administration will go in pressuring states to adopt universal masking — or vaccine mandates.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressman criminally charged with lying to feds

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.