Many parents sending their child to college are asking questions about cost, quality and access.
Those fundamental questions came before a review of higher education Tuesday called by Governor Bill Haslam.
"This is a much needed conversation [because] higher education is at a crossroads," said the governor in his opening remarks to the gathering of state and national higher education leaders.
"The status quo won't hold," warned the governor.
The governor cited statistics that have bedeviled educators and lawmakers in Tennessee for decades.
For one, with 21% of Tennessee adults having four-year college degrees, the state lags behind the national average of 30%.
"So how do you increase degrees without sacrificing quality and how you [hold down college tuition] which is three times the rate of inflation for Tennessee and the rest of the nation," asked the governor in his opening remarks.
The questions set the tone for the higher education gathering which included national known speakers such as Bill Tucker from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, economist Nicole Smith from Georgetown University and Bill Zumeta from the University of Washington who has written about financing higher education.
Tucker of the Gates Foundation brought up what he called "The Iron Triangle," which he cited as cost, quality and access to higher education.
He said higher education "needs to think differently to break out of the Iron Triangle" amd that "higher education won't look the same in Tennessee in 10 years."
Tucker cited "small pockets of excellence" that need to be shared with other universities or even other departments within a college.
As an example, he mentioned an app to help students choose classes developed through the Provost at Tennessee's Austin Peay State University.
"We are seeing students who use the app slightly increase their grade point average," said Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan. "That may not sound like much, but if you are on the edge in keeping a scholarship, the app could make a difference."
The app was described as suggesting classes based on how well students did in other classes.
Governor Haslam described the review as "just the beginning of the process."
He said the gathering will have more conversations down the road with higher education and business leaders.