Improve quality of student outcomes in terms of
completion, learning and employment
The first step is for states to set an ambitious attainment goal.
To be successful in the 21st-century economy, the nation and each state will need to significantly increase postsecondary degree attainment among our working-age population. This accomplishment will require reorienting and expanding the nation’s higher education system around student outcomes. Policymakers and leaders at the state and system levels can help manage the changing environment for higher education in a much more student-centered way than has previously occurred. To do so will require more than improving completion rates among students enrolling in two- and four-year public institutions. It will require states to re-engage adult learners and increase the production of two- and four-year degrees as well as other postsecondary certificates or credentials. It will also require states and institutions to ensure that high-quality learning is recognized and rewarded – no matter where or how that learning is obtained.
These recommendations provide clear, detailed steps to increase higher education attainment, while also maintaining the flexibility to respond to unique conditions and the needs of each state. Each state will determine how best to create a policy environment that supports efforts to increase higher education attainment and reach Goal 2025.
The first step for states is to set an ambitious attainment goal. Lumina’s goal is that 60 percent of Americans will hold a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. States will need to set their own attainment goals, strive to meet specific state workforce needs, and address gaps in minority and low-income population completion. Further, states will need to develop plans and strategies for reaching their goals, develop information systems and performance metrics for measuring and rewarding progress and create public data tools for sharing information in a clear way with students, their families and taxpayers. States and systems will also need to focus on the issue of high-quality degrees by defining and using student learning outcomes to anchor policymaking, including how investments are aligned to improve student learning outcomes. Increasing the number of degrees will not be sufficient without efforts to ensure quality and workforce relevance.
The policy options listed below provide details, evidence and some examples for state and system leaders to consider as they work to advance this core element. Policymakers and higher education leaders are encouraged to use this set of resource tools as appropriate and most relevant to meet their individual state’s needs for increasing attainment.