College Completion

Overview

College Completion

“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma,” President Obama said in a February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress.“And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education, and half of the students who begin college never finish.” With those remarks, the president put the issue of college completion front and center on the national stage.Calling the situation a “prescri

“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma,” President Obama said in a February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress.“And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education, and half of the students who begin college never finish.” With those remarks, the president put the issue of college completion front and center on the national stage.Calling the situation a “prescription for economic decline,” Obama went on to urge all Americans to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. “By 2020,” he said of the goal, “America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

The “once again” comment refers to the United States’ former stature as the most college-educated nation in the world. Policymakers and educators bemoan the United States’ gradual slide from that once-lofty rank , a decline that has been documented in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report “Education at a Glance,” which tracks college completion rates in industrialized countries worldwide. To meet Obama’s goal, the United States will have to raise the percentage of Americans ages 25 to 64 with a college degree from its measurement of 41.2 percent in 2010 to nearly 60 percent. Considerable debate has arisen over whether America’s gradual decline as first in the world in educational attainment is the result of actual slippage or rather is more a matter of other nations making more progress more quickly. Either way, it is clear that American policymakers and college completion advocates see the drop as a call to action.

And President Obama is not alone in setting a target date for that action to yield tangible results. For example, Lumina Foundation, an influential higher education philanthropy, aims to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality postsecondary degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. The College Board is also aiming for 2025, specifically to have 55 percent of the nation’s adults ages 25 to 34 hold at an associate’s degree or higher. While the dates and goals vary, together they underscore how central the college completion agenda has become to higher education policy and practice. This Topics section examines how this movement has developed and what it has meant for higher education.

Spellings Report

The college completion agenda has been advanced by a number of philanthropic organizations and policymakers. While President Obama gave this agenda a prominent push, many of the issues being championed by today’s college completion advocates were raised in a 2006 report, titled “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education.” The report is commonly referred to as the Spellings report for Margaret Spellings, who was U.S. secretary of education during President George W. Bush’s second term.

Like many of the current completion initiatives, the Spellings report called for better data on college graduation rates as the nation’s demographics—and the backgrounds and lives of those seeking college degrees—were starting to shifting substantially. The report was critical of institutions of higher learning for not doing more to move students from enrollment to degree. “Among high school graduates who do make it on to postsecondary education, a troubling number waste time—and taxpayer dollars—mastering English and math skills that they should have learned in high school,” the report states. “And some never complete their degrees at all, at least in part because most colleges and universities don’t accept responsibility for making sure that those they admit actually succeed.”

The Spelling Report’s conclusions regarding college graduation rates gained more urgency during and after the 2008 global financial crisis. As unemployment rates swelled and were slow to recede, prominent research from institutions including the Georgetown University Center on the Workforce and Education concluded that people with college degrees or higher were less likely to be unemployed and earned substantially more over their careers. It is important to note, however, that some advocates for improving college completion rates emphasize the importance of a college education for its own inherent value in fostering self-efficacy and citizenship.

One central question in the efforts to improve college graduation rates is which changes would produce the most effective results? Is the completion problem a result of student’s lack of time, money, or a combination of both? Would it be most effective to revamp postsecondary institutional practices to take into account the reality of today’s students so that the time to degree can be shortened before “life gets in the way,” as has become a common refrain for college completion advocates? For instance, the 2011 report “Time Is the Enemy” from Complete College America—a nonprofit organization that specifically focuses on improving graduation rates—argues that, among other things, college curricula should take into account the “busy lives” of contemporary students, who collectively no longer mirror the “traditional” college student who enrolls in a four-year institution straight out of high school.

Other organizations, such as the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, emphasize the impact of a student’s socioeconomic background. For instance, in a one brief, the institute argues that income-based inequality in educational attainment is “a central obstacle to achieving the 2020 goal and that decreasing income-based attainment gaps must become a central focus of federal education policy.”

Improving the Data

Others who have examined college graduation rates have raised questions about the federal college completion data system, which is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS. While IPEDS calculates college graduation rates based on full-time, first-time students, a growing chorus of higher education officials say IPEDS fails to capture the realities of today’s college students, who take longer to complete their degrees or who transfer from one institution to another. IPEDS also has been criticized for not tracking the progress of students who transfer colleges, though this practice might be revised to account for their graduation at their transfer institution. (In April 2012, the Education Department released an action plan to enact these revised graduation rate data collection policies, but did not set a date for revised measurements to be in place.) Using the full-time, first-time criteria, only about half of all students who enroll in college earn a four-year degree within six years.

In the philanthropic world, the two biggest players in college completion are the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, both of which have devoted millions of dollars to research a wide range of issues in higher education, from lack of college readiness (“college knowledge”) among low-income students to postsecondary remedial education, which is often considered to be one of the barriers to students’ progress toward graduation. (Both the Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation provide grant support for EWA’s work pertaining to higher education.)

In December 2008, the Gates Foundation announced a $69 million initiative of multiyear grants to “double the number of low-income students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential with genuine value in the workplace by age 26.” Many of those grants were given for three-, four- and five-year projects, meaning that over the next few years, the foundation and journalists will be asking  questions about what was learned and achieved through those grants, as well as several other multiyear grants projects the Gates Foundation has since launched to improve higher education attainment in the United States.

The same goes for the grants awarded by the Lumina Foundation, whose work in improving higher education attainment is tied to a strategic plan that it announced in 2009 known as Goal 2025. Lumina’s “big goal,” which it describes as “audacious,” is to “increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials from the longstanding rate of 39 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025.” (The foundation defines high-quality credentials as degrees and certificates that have well-defined and transparent learning outcomes that provide clear pathways to further education and employment and is looking to raise the percentage of degree holders from 24- to 64-years-old.)

Other major players in the college completion agenda include the College Board, which has an initiative formally known as the College Completion Agenda. The initiative is essentially a two-pronged approach that deals with state policy and national metrics. Specifically, the College Board releases an annual College Completion Agenda progress report that keeps tabs on where the nation is in proximity to its various college completion goals. Additionally, the College Board has produced a state policy guide that features “best-practice policy examples, all aligned around 10 key recommendations.”

Key Coverage

Highlighted journalism and reports for this topic

  • California Community Colleges Release Completion Scorecards

    April 10, 2013

    California’s community college system on April 9 unveiled Web-based “scorecards” on student performance at its 112 colleges. The new data tool is user-friendly and often sobering, with graduation, retention and transfer rates for each of the colleges and for the overall system, which enrolls 2.4 million students. (Inside Higher Ed)

    Read More »
  • California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study

    March 13, 2013

    If it passes, as seems likely, it would be the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own — including those taught by a private vendor, not by a college or university. (NY Times)

    Read More »
  • Competency-Based Education Has Fans, Detractors

    January 2, 2013

    But few traditional schools in Indiana have plans to adopt competency-based education in a way that allows students to progress toward degrees on their own time lines. Such schools as Indiana University, Indiana State University and even for-profit educators like Harrison College say they plan to stick closely to their models that require specific amounts of time in class to graduate. (Associated Press) 

    Read More »
  • For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

    December 22, 2012

    The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

    Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points. (The New York Times) 

    Read More »
  • Skilled Workers In Training As Economic Reality Marries Apprenticeships With College

    December 7, 2012

    An age-old doorway into skilled trades and a middle-class life, the apprenticeship is making a comeback, rebounding after all but disappearing in recent decades in the face of a decline in union membership and dwindling demand for skilled labor. And as the economy changes, today’s apprenticeships combine the chance for workers not only to master skills while earning a paycheck but to get a college degree at the same time. (The Hechinger Report) 

    Read More »
  • Student-Loan Delinquencies Now Surpass Credit Cards

    November 27, 2012

    Of the $956 billion in student-loan debt outstanding as of September, 11 percent was delinquent — up from less than 9 percent in the second quarter, and higher than the 10.5 percent of credit-card debt, which was delinquent in the third quarter. By comparison, delinquency rates on mortgages, home-equity lines of credit and auto loans stood at 5.9 percent, 4.9 percent, and 4.3 percent respectively as of September. (CNBC) 

    Read More »
  • No Income? No Problem! How the Gov’t Is Saddling Parents with College Loans They Can’t Afford

    October 4, 2012

    A joint examination by ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education has found that Plus loans can sometimes hurt the very families they are intended to help: The loans are both remarkably easy to get and nearly impossible to get out from under for families who’ve overreached. When a parent applies for a Plus loan, the government checks credit history, but it doesn’t assess whether the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. It doesn’t check income. It doesn’t check employment status. It doesn’t check how much other debt — like a mortgage, or other student-loan debt — the borrower is already on the hook for. (ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education) 

    Read More »
  • Teacher’s Wages Garnished as U.S. Goes After Loan Default

    July 2, 2012

    Lawyers drained Linda Brice’s bank account and seized a quarter of her take-home pay, or more than $900 a month. Brice, a first-grade teacher and Coast Guard veteran, begged for mercy, saying she couldn’t afford food, gas or utilities.

    Brice’s transgression: she defaulted on $3,100 she had borrowed more than 30 years ago to pay for college. The chief federal judge in Los Angeles took her side, ruling that Brice should pay only $25 a month. The law firm of Goldsmith & Hull — representing the federal government – then withdrew $2,496 from her bank account. (Bloomberg News) 

    Read More »
  • Facing Facts

    May 29, 2012

    In some ways, community colleges have faced the most scrutiny by advocates of the college completion agenda. This article reports on a panel discussion of the impact these efforts have had on two-year colleges. “[If] the focus on completion gets too singular, two-year colleges run the risk of neglecting student access and even the quality of learning on their campuses,” the story notes. (Inside Higher Ed)

    Read More »
  • College Dropouts Have Debt but No Degree

    May 28, 2012

    The consequences of leaving college before graduation are not just educational.  Dropping out also can have a significant financial impact: “College dropouts are also among the most likely to default on their loans, falling behind at a rate four times that of graduates.” (Washington Post)

    Read More »
  • To Raise Completion Rates, States Dig Deeper for Data

    March 2, 2012

    With the growing demand for improving college completion rates has come a need for more thorough information about just how well or poorly colleges and their students are performing on a variety of measures. In a growing number of states, that data is being used to improve the number of students who finish their degrees. (The Chronicle of Higher Education) examines the trend.

    Read More »
  • Don’t Lecture Me

    January 6, 2012

    EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. College students spend a lot of time listening to lectures. But research shows there are better ways to learn. And experts say students need to learn better because the 21st century economy demands more well-educated workers. (American RadioWorks)

     

     

    Read More »
  • Application Inflation

    November 5, 2010

    EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. With skyrocketing numbers of applicants and declining percentages of students accepted, how are admissions offices handling the multiple pressures they face? Are schools bringing in more and more accomplished students, or just the same kind of enrollment class compared to students from a decade ago? (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • Reframing College Completion

    October 28, 2010

    The national college completion goals laid out by President Obama and various organizations are literally monumental, aiming to move millions of Americans to college degrees. This article examines efforts to break that large, national goal down into smaller regional and metropolitan goals. (Inside Higher Ed)

    Read More »
  • To Pump Up Degree Counts, Colleges Invite Dropouts Back

    October 24, 2010

    Many advocates for increasing the number of Americans with college credentials assert that one efficient way to raise that number would be to convince adults who have dropped out of college to return and finish their degrees. This article examines the pros and cons of that approach. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

     

    Read More »
  • Education Experts Discuss Ways to Improve College-Completion Rates

    June 2, 2010

    This article examines the ideas experts — including some college presidents — shared in a discussion entitled “Competing in a Global Economy: How to Boost College Completion Rates,” sponsored by the Gates Foundation. “American colleges often focus too much on enrolling students and not enough on making sure they graduate, a number of panelists said.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • Seminoles helped by ‘LD’ diagnoses

    December 18, 2009

    EWA 2010 National Reporting  Contest winner. For college athletes, how much help is too much if they have learning disabilities? This story features a fired disabilities coach who university officials say blurred the line between aiding student-athletes with learning disabilities and academic fraud. Other members of the university’s athletic academic support unit in some cases supplied answers to tests, and in other cases typed papers, for 61 athletes in football and other sports. (ESPN)

    Read More »
  • Gates Fund Creates Plan for College Completion

    November 21, 2008

    This article covers the Gates Foundation’s original announcement of its college completion initiative. A subscription is required to view the full article. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »

Reports & Data

Notable research on this topic

  • A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education

    March 26, 2012

    This is the third major report the Lumina Foundation has released to assess the nation’s progress toward Lumina’s goal “to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.” The report found that only 38.3 percent of working-age Americans held a two- or four-year college degree in 2010, concluding that “if we continue on our current rate of production, only 79.8 million working-age Americans (46.5% of those aged 25-64) will hold degrees by 2025…This will leave us more than 23 million degrees short of the national 60 percent goal.”

    Read More »
  • Time is the Enemy

    September 2011

    This comprehensive study challenged the conventional image that most college students enter postsecondary education directly from high school and proceed directly to a bachelor’s degree in six years or less. It notes instead that “Nontraditional students are the new majority” and that “Part-time students rarely graduate,” among its other groundbreaking findings. (Complete College America)

    Read More »
  • Developing 20/20 Vision on the 2020 Degree Attainment Goal — The Threat of Income-Based Inequality in Education

    May 2011

    In this report, the Pell Institute says that “The nation’s failure to keep pace with other countries in educational attainment among 25- to 34- year-old adults can largely be traced to our inability to adequately educate individuals from families in the bottom half of the income distribution.”

    Read More »
  • The College Completion Agenda: 2011 Progress Report

    2011

    Tracking the national progress toward its goal for college completion, the College Board offers 10 recommendations for improving educational attainment. At the postsecondary level, the goals include reforming college admissions, simplifying and improving financial aid, and offering better academic counseling to college students.

    Read More »
  • A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education

    September 2006

    This study, commonly known as the Spellings Report—in reference to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings who commissioned it—is perhaps one of the earliest landmarks in the current college completion agenda.  “We may still have more than our share of the world’s best universities,” the report asserts. “But a lot of other countries have followed our lead, and they are now educating more of their citizens to more advanced levels than we are. Worse, they are passing us by at a time when education is more important to our collective prosperity than ever.” (U.S. Department of Education)

    Read More »

Five Questions to Ask

  1. Look at the graduation rates for the past five years for the community colleges and four-year colleges that you cover. Have these increased or decreased, and—if so—why? Have they started any new initiatives to improve graduation rates?
  2. One crucial question to the college completion agenda is the balance between access and graduation rates. If, as many people argue, the most efficient way for colleges to improve their graduation rates is to enroll high school graduates with higher grade point averages and college admissions test scores, then students with less competitive credentials could be shut out of higher education. How have the colleges you cover managed this balance over the years and are the scales starting to tip in one direction?
  3. Another key question regarding graduation rates is the socioeconomic backgrounds of a college’s students. It is commonly thought that the less affordable a college becomes, the less likely its students are to graduate. What the financial aid policies and practices of the colleges you cover and the average student debt loads for their graduates? How have cuts in state funding and the general economic slump affected the net prices students have to pay to earn a degree?
  4. What percentage of first-year students at the colleges and universities you cover have to take remedial or “developmental” education courses? What percentages of those groups go on to earn degrees? Many advocates for improving college graduation rates assert that these courses present a major obstacle, leading students to accrue debt for courses that don’t count toward a degree. Are there any initiatives to change how these courses are handled at these colleges?
  5. Are the demographics of your community changing and, subsequently, are the populations of the colleges in your region in flux? If colleges and universities are to meet the 2020 and 2025 graduation goals proposed by the president and organizations, these institutions likely will have to educate many more Latino, black, and low-income students, the precise groups they historically have struggled with.

Organizations

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in December 2008 announced a $69 million multiyear grants initiative to “double the number of low-income students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential with genuine value in the workplace by age 26.” While the foundation has done extensive, non-education-related work in developing nations, “In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.” The Gates Foundation has sponsored the Education Writers Association’s work regarding the coverage of higher education.

The College Board runs the College Completion Agenda project. The Board releases an annual completion agenda progress report that examines the national progress on various college completion goals. The College Board’s own college completion goal is to increase the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds who hold an associate’s degree or higher to 55 percent by the year 2025.

Complete College America, launched in 2009, is a national nonprofit set up to “work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.” The shifting demographics of American society are central to CCA’s efforts as they note “we must move with urgency to reinvent American higher education to meet the needs of the new majority of students on our campuses, delicately balancing the jobs they need with the education they desire.”

The Institute for College Access and Success “works to make higher education more available and affordable for people of all backgrounds.” TICAS’s research and advocacy efforts largely focus on the roles that socioeconomic income and student play in affecting whether students earn postsecondary degrees.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy “is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to promoting access to and success in higher education for all students.” IHEP approaches postsecondary improvement with five key goals in mind: access and success; accountability; diversity; finance; and global impact.

The Lumina Foundation for Education is a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving college graduation rates in the United States. The foundation—headquartered in Indianapolis—was established in 2000, and in 2009, Lumina announced its Goal 2025 initiative, which seeks to “increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials from the longstanding rate of 39 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025.” The Lumina Foundation has sponsored the Education Writers Association’s work regarding the coverage of higher education.

The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education researches and emphasizes the role that socioeconomic background plays with regard to a student’s ability to earn a college degree. The Pell Institute also studies issues affecting the completion rates of first-generation students and students with disabilities.

Suggest a Change

If you’d like to suggest an addition or change to this section, send an email to EWA Project Director Kenneth Terrell.

 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Coach on Campus: Student Success and Support in Higher Ed

The main purpose of college is to transfer knowledge to students, but that requires getting them to the classroom… and actually keeping them there until graduation. Nationwide, less than 60 percent of college students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Performance-Based Funding: Do the Numbers Add Up?

State governments increasingly are tying money for higher-education institutions to performance-based outcomes such as graduation rates, rather than just student enrollment. Twenty-five states now have some sort of performance-based model and four others are planning to follow. But there are still major questions about how schools respond to these models and what outcomes they have. Those issues were the focus of a panel discussion at EWA’s 67th National Seminar, held last month at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Seminar

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Covering the College Student Experience
2014 Higher Ed Seminar

For many college students — whether fresh out of high school or adults returning to school — their most serious obstacles to a degree won’t be homework or tests, but rather the challenges of navigating student life. Colleges are now being forced to face the longstanding problems that have often led to students’ flailing and failing on their own. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Asian Americans and Affirmative Action

Below are tweets I picked that may help reporters tackle this important question of fairness on a demographic group tagged with many myths. Population projections show that by 2050 one in 10 Americans will have an Asian background. Thirteen percent of the U.S. will be African American.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Top 10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering

Scott Jaschik addresses reporters at EWA's 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

For higher education reporters, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s annual top-10 list of story ideas is a highlight of EWA’s National Seminar. This year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jaschik kicked off his roundup with  an issue that has affected many institutions around the country: sexual assault. The key to covering this story, he said, is not to imply that this is a new problem. Increased attention from the White House has challenged the ways that many colleges have addressed these incidents.

Report

New Gallup-Purdue Study Looks at Links Among College, Work, and Well-being for Life After College

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When it comes to being engaged at work and experiencing high well-being after graduation, a new Gallup-Purdue University study of college graduates shows that the type of institution they attended matters less than what they experienced there. Yet, just 3% of all the graduates studied had the types of experiences in college that Gallup finds strongly relate to great jobs and great lives afterward.

Report

A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education
A Detailed Look at Postsecondary Attainment - Nationally and in Every State

This is Lumina Foundation’s fifth annual issue of A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, our signature report on progress toward Goal 2025. In this report, we measure progress in the higher education attainment rate — the percentage of the nation’s adult, working-age population holding a high-quality postsecondary credential.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report Analyzes Latino College Completion State by State

The states with the largest Latino populations don’t necessarily have the best track record for graduating Latinos from college, a new state-by-state analysis shows.

According to the report from the advocacy group Excelencia in Education, in 2011-12 only about 20 percent of Latinos ages 25 and older had at least an associate’s degree. The overall population had a much higher rate, at 36 percent.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Making the Jump to a Four-Year Degree Difficult for Community College Students

Several reports dropped this week about the difficulties community college students face transferring into a four-year college.

Nearly half of all postsecondary students are enrolled at a community college, and a poll from 2012 indicates 80 percent of those students aim to complete a degree at a four-year college or university. But while that goal is shared by many students, few actually successfully jump from a two-year to a four-year program.

Report

The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree

It is well established that students who begin postsecondary education at a community college are less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than otherwise similar undergraduates who begin at a 4-year school, but there is less consensus over the mechanisms generating this disparity. We explore these using national longitudinal transcript data and propensity-score methods. … 

Report

U.S. GAO – Federal Student Loans: Better Oversight Could Improve Defaulted Loan Rehabilitation

The Department of Education (Education) relies on collection agencies to assist borrowers in rehabilitating defaulted student loans, which allows borrowers who make nine on-time monthly payments within 10 months to have the default removed from their credit reports. Education works with 22 collection agencies to locate borrowers and explain repayment options, including rehabilitation.

Information

About Tuition Tracker

The 2018 Tuition Tracker online tool, which was updated and relaunched on Oct. 18, 2018, makes it easy to look up and compare the annual prices charged by more than 3,800 public, private and for-profit colleges and universities.

Organization

Council for Adult & Experiential Learning

The nonprofit Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, or CAEL as it is commonly called, advocates for initiatives that enable adults to earn postsecondary credentials more efficiently. They “support ways to link learning from [adults'] work and life experiences to their educational goals—so they earn their degrees and credentials faster.” CAEL’s expertise includes efforts such as prior learning assessment and competency-based education.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

How Engaged are Minority Males in Community College?

It may seem like a paradox: Many Latino and black male students enter community college with enthusiasm and high aspirations. However, minority males are less likely to complete their degrees than their white male counterparts.

The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin came to that conclusion in its report “Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Reports: Universities Helping Close Achievement Gap for Latino Students

Two new reports by The Education Trust recognize universities that are making the greatest strides in closing achievement gaps for Latino students.

The first study identifies San Diego State University and the University of Southern California for significantly increasing graduation rates among Latino students.

According to the report, the six-year graduation rate for Latino students who began school in 1996 was 31 percent. The rate for students who began in 2005 improved to 58.8 percent.  At USC, the graduation rate reached nearly the same level as white students.

Report

Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002): A First Look at 2002 High School Sophomores 10 Years Later

This First Look presents findings from the third, and final, follow-up survey of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). ELS:2002 provides a wealth of information from multiple sources (tested achievement, questionnaire, and administrative records) about the factors and circumstances related to the performance and social development of the American high school student over time.

Webinar

Getting to Degrees: New Research on College Completion Data

How many students are really graduating from college? This number is becoming more important as policymakers look to tie university funding to completion rates. But as more students start to “swirl”—take extended time off or transfer into another institution, acts that eliminate them from many traditional measures of college graduation –what’s the best way to keep track of which students actually earned degrees?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

States Balk as GED Gets More Expensive

Life for the nearly 40 million Americans without a high school diploma could be about to get harder as testing companies who create high school equivalency exams are rolling out tougher – and in some cases — more expensive

Report

Postsecondary Success for All: Leveraging Partners and Assets

In 2008, FHI 360 and the Citi Foundation joined together to launch the Citi Postsecondary Success Program, now called the Postsecondary Success Collaborative. Five years and 12,000 students later, the Postsecondary Success Collaborative has transformed the way participating schools and partners in Miami-Dade County, Philadelphia and San Francisco map resources and needs and collaborate to support college readiness and completion.

Multimedia

Tracking Veterans’ Success in Higher Ed

Tracking Veterans’ Success in Higher Ed

About 250 community colleges and four-year institutions recently have pledged to track veterans’ outcomes and support them on campus through a new program of the U.S. Department of Education. How much do we know about the recent success rates of veterans at American colleges and what services exist to support them?

EWA Radio

Tracking Veterans’ Success

About 250 community colleges and four-year institutions recently have pledged to track veterans’ outcomes and support them on campus through a new program of the U.S. Department of Education. How much do we know about the recent success rates of veterans at American colleges and what services exist to support them? Speakers: Peter Buryk, Senior Project Associate, Rand Corporation; Marc V. Cole, Senior Advisor for Veterans and Military Families, U.S. Department of Education; Ashley Parker-Roman, U.S.

EWA Radio

Black and Latino Males: Getting To and Through College

Shaun Harper, director of the Center for Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, previews new research on how New York City addressed the challenge of guiding more of its black and Latino male students to postsecondary success. Recorded Saturday, Sept. 28 at EWA’s 2013 Higher Ed Seminar, Guess Who’s Coming to Campus: What Demographic Changes Mean for Colleges and Reporters.

EWA Radio

New Prescriptions for Remedial Education

The biggest obstacles that many undergraduates face en route to a college degree are the remedial or developmental courses in which they will be placed for their first year. These courses, which students must pass before they can take classes that carry college credit, add to the expense and time it takes to earn a degree. Are such classes really needed? Or can schools replace them with other forms of academic support?

Multimedia

For Good Measure: Assessing College Performance

For Good Measure: Assessing College Performance

What’s the best way to determine how effectively a college goes about the business of educating its students? If popular college rankings in the media are flawed, what other models of crunching the data might deliver more illuminating comparisons? To what extent is a college’s success at graduating students dependent on the types of students it enrolls? This session offers insights on new approaches on how to use the data available to see a more complete picture of college performance.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How I borrowed a lot and paid back a little: A writer’s take on Income Based Repayment

In May of my senior year at Union College (See photo), the only thing I was thinking about was passing finals and completing papers with pretentious titles.  Postgraduation plans, like a job, were nothing more than vapors momentarily wafting in the way of those footnotes buried in my textbooks.  I had no idea what kind of job I’d get, but I did know one thing for certain: I’d wrap up my college education with roughly $17,000 in federally subsidized debt.

EWA Radio

Making Sense of Higher Education Engagement, Outcomes & Assessment

The latest on what we know about how students learn best, what institutions should be looking for, and how they determine if it’s happening. Panelists: Kenneth Terrell, Education Writers Association (moderator); George Kuh (NILOA) and Robert Gonyea (NSSE); Trudy Banta and Gary Pike, IUPUI. Recorded at EWA’s Seminar for Higher Education Reporters at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Nov. 2-3, 2012.

EWA Radio

Different Ways to a Degree

In recent years, various options have emerged to trim the costs of earning a degree. In this session, we will examine whether options such as three-year degree programs and online education can make higher education more affordable. Panelists: Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed (moderator); Kris Clerkin, Southern New Hampshire University; David Daniels, Pearson; Tom Harnisch, American Association of State Colleges & Universities; Burck Smith, StraighterLine; Tom Snyder, Ivy Tech Community College.

EdMedia Commons Archive

Bingo! Education Buzzwords to Look For in Tonight’s Presidential Debate

With the help of EWA members, we’ve put together a bingo card of some of the more popular education buzzwords and phrases you can expect to hear at tonight’s debate. If you are planning a debate-watching party — and who isn’t? — you can print out all five cards and play along.

Click here to download your own set of bingo cards.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Making Sure the College Completion Numbers Add Up

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education released an action plan that would revise how colleges and universities are evaluated, with graduation rates to now reflect students who attend part-time, as well as those who are returning to school.

The new formula is particularly important for community colleges, which have long complained that two significant segments of their student populations were being underreported. And a new web tool launching today from the College Board could offer more perspective on how community colleges are performing.

Multimedia

A Glass Half Full: A Look at Student Retention

A Glass Half Full: A Look at Student Retention

Panelists discuss the challenges facing first-generation college students, the difference between “retention” and “persistence,” and the challenge of matching students with ideal institutions. Recorded at EWA’s Nov. 4-5 seminar for higher education reporters at UCLA.

Report

What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready?

“The nation is, at long last, engaged in a serious discussion of what it might take to make sure that our students leave high school college and career ready. But what exactly, does that mean? Almost three years ago, we decided to find out, by looking at the levels of mathematics and English language literacy high school graduates need to succeed in their first year in our community colleges.”

Organization

The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education

The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education researches and emphasizes the role that socioeconomic background plays with regard to a student’s ability to earn a college degree. The Pell Institute also studies issues affecting the completion rates of first-generation students and students with disabilities.

Organization

Lumina Foundation

The Lumina Foundation for Education is a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving college graduation rates in the United States. The foundation—headquartered in Indianapolis—was established in 2000, and in 2009, Lumina announced its Goal 2025 initiative, which seeks to “increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials from the longstanding rate of 39 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025.” The Lumina Foundation has sponsored the Education Writers Association’s work regarding the coverage of higher education.

Organization

Institute for Higher Education Policy

The Institute for Higher Education Policy “is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to promoting access to and success in higher education for all students.” IHEP approaches postsecondary improvement with five key goals in mind: access and success; accountability; diversity; finance; and global impact.

Organization

Complete College America

Complete College America, launched in 2009, is a national nonprofit set up to “work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.” The shifting demographics of American society are central to CCA’s efforts as they note “we must move with urgency to reinvent American higher education to meet the needs of the new majority of students on our campuses, delicately balancing the jobs they need with the education they desire.”

Organization

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in December 2008 announced a $69 million multiyear grants initiative to “double the number of low-income students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential with genuine value in the workplace by age 26.” While the foundation has done extensive, non-education-related work in developing nations, “In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.” The Gates Foundation has sponsored the Education Writers Association’s work regardin

Organization

The College Board

The College Board is known primarily for their SAT and Advanced Placement tests, which play critical roles in the college admissions process, both for students and admissions officers across the country. The College Board, however, does also have an Advocacy & Policy Center that actively researches key issues of college access and success. Their annual reports regarding trends in college costs and financial aid are key tools of the higher education beat.

Key Coverage

How to Assess the Real Payoff of a College Degree

Looking at college explicitly in terms of its “return on investment,” measured in starting salaries and potential earnings, is something new—a confluence of anxieties about the rising cost of college, mounting debt among students, a flaccid economy, and the ubiquitous vocabulary of the market.

Organization

The Institute for College Access and Success

The Institute for College Access and Success is an advocacy group that works to promote college affordability. Based in San Francisco, they can offer perspectives on various aspects of college costs, such as net price calculators, student debt, and income-based repayment of student loans.

Key Coverage

California Community Colleges Release Completion Scorecards

California’s community college system on April 9 unveiled Web-based “scorecards” on student performance at its 112 colleges. The new data tool is user-friendly and often sobering, with graduation, retention and transfer rates for each of the colleges and for the overall system, which enrolls 2.4 million students. 

Key Coverage

California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study

Legislation will be introduced in the California Senate that could reshape higher education by requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students unable to register for oversubscribed classes on campus.

If it passes, as seems likely, it would be the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own — including those taught by a private vendor, not by a college or university.

Key Coverage

Competency-Based Education Has Fans, Detractors

But few traditional schools in Indiana have plans to adopt competency-based education in a way that allows students to progress toward degrees on their own time lines. Such schools as Indiana University, Indiana State University and even for-profit educators like Harrison College say they plan to stick closely to their models that require specific amounts of time in class to graduate.

Key Coverage

For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

Key Coverage

Student-Loan Delinquencies Now Surpass Credit Cards

Of the $956 billion in student-loan debt outstanding as of September, 11 percent was delinquent — up from less than 9 percent in the second quarter, and higher than the 10.5 percent of credit-card debt, which was delinquent in the third quarter. By comparison, delinquency rates on mortgages, home-equity lines of credit and auto loans stood at 5.9 percent, 4.9 percent, and 4.3 percent respectively as of September. 

Key Coverage

No Income? No Problem! How the Gov’t Is Saddling Parents with College Loans They Can’t Afford

A joint examination by ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education has found that Plus loans can sometimes hurt the very families they are intended to help: The loans are both remarkably easy to get and nearly impossible to get out from under for families who’ve overreached. When a parent applies for a Plus loan, the government checks credit history, but it doesn’t assess whether the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. It doesn’t check income. It doesn’t check employment status.

Key Coverage

Teacher’s Wages Garnished as U.S. Goes After Loan Default

Lawyers drained Linda Brice’s bank account and seized a quarter of her take-home pay, or more than $900 a month. Brice, a first-grade teacher and Coast Guard veteran, begged for mercy, saying she couldn’t afford food, gas or utilities.

Brice’s transgression: she defaulted on $3,100 she had borrowed more than 30 years ago to pay for college. The chief federal judge in Los Angeles took her side, ruling that Brice should pay only $25 a month. The law firm of Goldsmith & Hull – representing the federal government — then withdrew $2,496 from her bank account. 

Key Coverage

Facing Facts

In some ways, community colleges have faced the most scrutiny by advocates of the college completion agenda. This article reports on a panel discussion of the impact these efforts have had on two-year colleges. “[If] the focus on completion gets too singular, two-year colleges run the risk of neglecting student access and even the quality of learning on their campuses,” the story notes. 

Key Coverage

College Dropouts Have Debt but No Degree

The consequences of leaving college before graduation are not just educational. Dropping out also can have a significant financial impact: “College dropouts are also among the most likely to default on their loans, falling behind at a rate four times that of graduates.” 

Report

A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education

This is the third major report the Lumina Foundation has released to assess the nation’s progress toward Lumina’s goal “to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.” The report found that only 38.3 percent of working-age Americans held a two- or four-year college degree in 2010, concluding that “if we continue on our current rate of production, only 79.8 million working-age Americans (46.5% of those aged 25-64) will hold degrees by 2025…This will leave us more than 23 million degrees short of the national 60 percent goal.”

Key Coverage

To Raise Completion Rates, States Dig Deeper for Data

With the growing demand for improving college completion rates has come a need for more thorough information about just how well or poorly colleges and their students are performing on a variety of measures. In a growing number of states, that data is being used to improve the number of students who finish their degrees. 

Key Coverage

Don’t Lecture Me

EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. College students spend a lot of time listening to lectures. But research shows there are better ways to learn. And experts say students need to learn better because the 21st century economy demands more well-educated workers. 

Report

Time is the Enemy

This comprehensive study challenged the conventional image that most college students enter postsecondary education directly from high school and proceed directly to a bachelor’s degree in six years or less. It notes instead that “Nontraditional students are the new majority” and that “Part-time students rarely graduate,” among its other groundbreaking findings. 

Report

The College Completion Agenda: 2011 Progress Report

Tracking the national progress toward its goal for college completion, the College Board offers 10 recommendations for improving educational attainment. At the postsecondary level, the goals include reforming college admissions, simplifying and improving financial aid, and offering better academic counseling to college students.

Key Coverage

Application Inflation

EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. With skyrocketing numbers of applicants and declining percentages of students accepted, how are admissions offices handling the multiple pressures they face? Are schools bringing in more and more accomplished students, or just the same kind of enrollment class compared to students from a decade ago?

Key Coverage

Reframing College Completion

The national college completion goals laid out by President Obama and various organizations are literally monumental, aiming to move millions of Americans to college degrees. This article examines efforts to break that large, national goal down into smaller regional and metropolitan goals. 

Key Coverage

To Pump Up Degree Counts, Colleges Invite Dropouts Back

Many advocates for increasing the number of Americans with college credentials assert that one efficient way to raise that number would be to convince adults who have dropped out of college to return and finish their degrees. This article examines the pros and cons of that approach. 

Key Coverage

Education Experts Discuss Ways to Improve College-Completion Rates

This article examines the ideas experts — including some college presidents — shared in a discussion entitled “Competing in a Global Economy: How to Boost College Completion Rates,” sponsored by the Gates Foundation. “American colleges often focus too much on enrolling students and not enough on making sure they graduate, a number of panelists said.”

Key Coverage

Seminoles helped by ‘LD’ diagnoses

EWA 2010 National Reporting  Contest winner. For college athletes, how much help is too much if they have learning disabilities? This story features a fired disabilities coach who university officials say blurred the line between aiding student-athletes with learning disabilities and academic fraud. Other members of the university’s athletic academic support unit in some cases supplied answers to tests, and in other cases typed papers, for 61 athletes in football and other sports.

Report

A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education

This study, commonly known as the Spellings Report—in reference to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings who commissioned it—is perhaps one of the earliest landmarks in the current college completion agenda. “We may still have more than our share of the world’s best universities,” the report asserts. “But a lot of other countries have followed our lead, and they are now educating more of their citizens to more advanced levels than we are. Worse, they are passing us by at a time when education is more important to our collective prosperity than ever.”