Earlier this year, the Tennessee Department of Education released a report that stated, “One-third of high school graduates are not completing all course requirements.”

This finding was based upon the department’s examination of Tennessee graduates from the class of 2015. The report was launched to discover why high school graduates were not finding success in their post-secondary studies or were not attempting to achieve a post-secondary education.

The Department of Education updated the report in February to provide a more detailed explanation of its findings. The update states that the reasons behind this statistic include: “Incorrect course entry into the Education Information System,” students not completing courses because of foreign language and fine arts waivers, and “course substitution misunderstandings and/or genuine missed courses.”

The department found that each of these problems is responsible for 11 percent of the incorrect graduates.

The most disturbing of these conclusions is the fine arts and foreign language waivers. “The use of these waivers varies greatly across the state, with some districts having more than one-third of students for whom foreign language/fine arts requirements have been waived,” the report states.

ETSU requires students graduating with a bachelor of arts degree to complete foreign language through the 2020 level. This means that the student would need to take four classes in their chosen language if they have no previous experience. However, students who completed language credits in high school can get credit for this past work, skipping classes that they have essentially already taken. It is easy to see how a student who skipped the foreign language requirement in high school would have trouble completing this requirement in college.

And this issue is bigger than the individual student, graduation rates and universities’ performance metrics could be affected by students who are not adequately prepared for college.

The task of verifying that applicants to ETSU have met the requirements for admission falls on the Admissions Office. “Here in the Admissions Office, we evaluate every applicant’s high school transcript to ensure that the student meets our minimum requirements for admission prior to making an admission decision,” Director of Admission Brian Henley stated. “During that evaluation, we expect students to have completed (or be in the process of completing) a minimum of 16 high school credits. These 16 credits do not exactly match the requirements for high school graduation, but they do substantially align with the academic requirements for graduation.”

It’s the difference between the requirements for admission and the requirements for high school graduation that are worrisome, but publishing this report (the first of its kind for Tennessee, according to NPR) is a first step to resolving the issues and helping students find greater success after high school.