Develop a statewide plan to focus and sustain necessary changes in policy and practice to reach the state attainment goal
Setting an ambitious statewide postsecondary education attainment goal is a primary step for every state. However, state policymakers and higher education leaders also can establish a statewide plan that lays out a strategy for getting there. State and system goals can focus and sustain a policy agenda and drive changes in practice. Ideally, a plan includes data about the current state of attainment, completion and employment, as well as strategies for improvement. The plan serves as a common roadmap for leaders at the state, system and institutional levels for setting priorities, developing policies and programs, identifying funding and measuring progress. It also serves as a baseline for systems and institutions to develop or refine their own institution-specific strategic plans that define institutional goals and strategies for improving student enrollment, completion and success. To make a plan that is accessible for state and institutional leaders, faculty, students and their families and other members of the public, plan developers should consider:
- Producing a public-facing document, primarily accessed online;
- Limiting the length to approximately 20 pages;
- Explicitly stating goals, strategies and outcome measures;
- Specifically connecting institutional goals to the state attainment goal; and
- Including stories, pictures and dashboards.
Each of the following state examples is a policy solution crafted in response to the unique circumstances of the state in which it was formed. As a private foundation, Lumina does not support or oppose any legislation. Lumina provides educational information, nonpartisan research and analysis to advance Goal 2025.
In 2016, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education adopted its third strategic plan for higher education—Reaching Higher, Delivering Value: A State Agenda to Increase the Value of Higher Education in Indiana. The plan builds on the state’s 2012 plan Reaching Higher, Achieving More: A Success Agenda for Higher Education in Indiana and the 2007 plan Reaching Higher: Strategic Directions for Higher Education in Indiana. In 2007, the commission found that despite significant increases in postsecondary enrollment, Indiana continued to lag behind other states in the share of its adult population that held a college degree. In response, leaders established the state’s goal of increasing the proportion of the state’s adults with quality education and training beyond high school to 60 percent by 2025. In 2013, the commission expanded its goal to include the elimination of achievement gaps between underrepresented student populations and the overall population. The latest plan examines the state’s progress and affirms the state’s commitment to a student-centered, mission-driven and workforce-aligned system of higher education. The 2016 plan focuses particularly on completion, competency and career and identifies a goal, core strategies and key metrics for each. Strategies include efforts to increase affordability, improve readiness, strengthen student support, define learning outcomes, measure student learning, encourage competency-based approaches, provide career planning, integrate workplace experiences and streamline job placement. Of further note is the sustained commitment among the governor, legislature and commissioner of higher education despite changes in leadership during the past decade.
Kentucky was an early leader both in setting goals and in developing state and institutional plans for improvement. In 1997, Kentucky enacted landmark postsecondary education reform legislation—the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act. The bill included goals differentiated by institutional mission for research universities, regional universities and community and technical colleges. Following passage, leaders identified specific targets around the goals and created accountability measures to monitor progress at the system, sector and institutional levels. Many of the measures have been revised and recalibrated over time, but the overall goal of increased attainment has remained constant.
The legislation also mandated that the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education develop a state implementation plan that complemented individual institutional plans and their unique missions. Since 1997, the council has adopted a series of strategic plans that have guided improvement efforts at the state, system and institutional levels. In June 2016, the Council adopted its current strategic plan for 2016-2021—Stronger by Degrees: A Plan to Create A More Educated and Prosperous Kentucky. The plan commits to the goal of increasing postsecondary attainment from 45 percent to 58 percent by 2025 and identifies three urgent priorities and related strategies:
- Opportunity—Ensuring accessibility, student support and resources, and that students enter postsecondary education prepared for credit-bearing work.
- Success—Increasing persistence and certificate and degree completions, and improving teaching and learning.
- Impact—Raising educational attainment levels, improving career readiness of graduates, increasing basic, applied and translational research to promote economic growth, and expanding partnerships and public service to improve the health and quality of life of Kentucky communities.
Further, the state has created a dashboard for gauging quantitative and qualitative progress, which is complemented by annual campus reports to the council and council reports to the governor and legislature. Progress updates are posted on the council’s website. For Kentucky, both the initial plan and the subsequent revisions and updates have provided a common roadmap for reform across the state and among individual institutions, and early data analyses revealed real improvements at both the state and institutional level. For more information on the early results, including data on improvements in attainment, see the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems 2011 report Realizing Kentucky’s Educational Attainment Goal: A Look in the Rear View Mirror and Down the Road Ahead.
In December 2015, the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education adopted a new strategic plan for higher education—Preparing Missourians to Succeed: A Blueprint for Higher Education. The plan, which was released in April 2016, offers a vision and a series of goals and policies in support of the state’s “Big Goal”—60 percent of adults between the ages of 24 and 65 will have a two-year or four-year degree or career or technical certificate by 2025. The coordinating board adopted the goal in 2011, but the last strategic plan dates to 2008. The new plan identifies five goals for Missouri higher education: increase educational attainment, keep college affordable, maintain quality, expand academic research and innovation, and build investment, advocacy and partnerships. A 36-member steering committee developed the plan with input gathered through nine public hearings and from more than 100 witnesses and dozens of experts. The plan also identifies issues, challenges and strategies for achieving and measuring progress. Among the issues addressed are those related to increasing college participation and completion rates and closing the achievement gap for student populations that have been underrepresented in higher education.
In July 2015, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission adopted its latest strategic plan—Postsecondary Attainment in the Decade of Decision: The Master Plan for Tennessee Postsecondary Education 2015-2025. This plan addresses goals first identified in the 2010 Complete College Tennessee Act (CCTA), which identified increased attainment as the state’s primary need in higher education, as well as Governor Bill Haslam’s 2013 Drive to 55 initiative, a public communications strategy to build support for the attainment goal and efforts to achieve it. The 2015-2025 plan makes the case for continued, focused pursuit of the attainment goal, notes the progress made since the CCTA was passed in 2010, identifies statewide and sector-specific degree and certificate production targets; recognizes three historically underserved student populations for focused policy and programmatic attention; identifies tools and strategies for serving these students; and offers observations and recommendations intended to guide policymakers, system leaders and campuses in their efforts.See the Evidence for Develop a Plan >
Other State Plans
- 2020 Vision: The Arizona University System Long-term Strategic Plan 2008-2020
- 60x30TX: Texas Higher Education Strategic Plan 2015-2030
- Closing the Gap 2020: A Master Plan for Higher Education in Arkansas (2015-2020)
- Colorado Competes: A Completion Agenda for Higher Education (2012-2017)
- Complete College Georgia: Georgia’s Higher Education Completion Plan 2012
- The Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success (2008-2018)
- Master Plan for Public Postsecondary Education in Louisiana (adopted 2011, revised 2012)
Strategic Planning Resources
- Renewing the Promise: State Policies to Improve Higher Education Performance, Institute for Research on Higher Education, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, Higher Education Policy Institute, February 2014
- Ten Keys—Ten Years Later: Successful Strategic Planning for Foundation Leaders, TCC Group, 2014