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More students attending college

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Gov. Bill Haslam

We've received a lot of exciting news recently, both in terms of where we are and where we're headed as a state.

In a matter of just a few days, we learned the pipeline of college students continues its momentum with a record number of students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), we have the lowest unemployment rate in Tennessee's recorded history, and an announcement of 1,000 new jobs by a manufacturer in Pikeville.

We believe all this is the result of the policies we have put in place working with the Tennessee General Assembly in education, workforce training and economic development. It shows we are on the right track in making our state the Tennessee it can be.

We are seeing more students headed to college to become part of that thriving workforce. The state has set a new record and for the third year in a row leads the nation in the number of students filing their FAFSA. Nearly three quarters of Tennessee's high school seniors - 73.5 percent - filed the FAFSA for the 2017-18 year.

That's an indicator of the changing culture around going to college in Tennessee. The FAFSA filing rate shows that more students are planning to enroll in postsecondary education in our state. Freshman enrollment in Tennessee has grown 13 percent in the last two years and more students than ever are going to college. We are trying to make college more accessible for Tennesseans, and it is working.

This enhances our Drive to 55, where the goal is to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree by 2025. It's the kind of trend that will lead to job growth, as employers look at Tennessee's potential in providing a workforce to meet their needs.

We have been pleased recently with our positive direction in employment, and this month we learned that Tennessee's unemployment rate for June was only 3.6 percent, the lowest rate ever recorded. The previous record was in March 2000 at 3.7 percent.

On July 24, we announced that Textile Corporation of America will locate its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Pikeville in Bledsoe County. The company will invest approximately $27.1 million and create 1,000 jobs, which is the largest private investment in the county's history. By choosing Pikeville, Textile Corporation of America is showing its confidence in Tennessee's future.

Each of these measures is part of a bigger picture of economic potential in Tennessee. One shows more students wanting to receive college training. One shows we are on the right path in getting Tennesseans jobs, and another is a concrete example of seeing jobs materialize. These examples are making us the Tennessee we can be.

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