Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Summary: A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education

As faculty who teach college and career success courses, we are interested in improving the numbers of students who successfully complete their college degrees.  The Lumina Foundation has yearly reports on educational attainment that provide data and recommendations for improvement that can be useful to faculty in advocating for change. 

According to a Gallup/Lumina poll, 74% of Americans believe that attaining a post secondary degree is important to attaining a better quality of life and obtaining employment in a changing job market.  The poll also shows that 89% of Americans believe that higher education needs to change to better serve the students of today. 

The goal of the Lumina Foundation is that by 2015, 60% of Americans will hold a degree, certificate or other high quality post secondary credential.  As of 2012, only 39.4% of Americans ages 25-64 had at least an associate degree.  When comparing educational attainment in the United States with other countries during the last six years, other countries have a higher rate of college completion.  The global economy has resulted in increasing demand for higher education and other countries have been more successful in meeting this demand. 

Degree attainment for different racial and ethnic groups varies, showing the need to improve higher education attainment for underrepresented groups.  This is especially important since underrepresented groups will have a higher increase in overall population. 

White                                  43.87%
Black                                   27.62%
Hispanic                              19.81%
Asian                                   59.35%
Native American                23.43%

The 6 year college completion rate is 58.8%, but also differs according to population groups:

White                                 62.1%
Black                                  39.9%
Hispanic                             51%
Asian                                  69.2%
Native American               Not provided

See the full report for detailed statistics on educational attainment for all major metropolitan areas in the United States and statistical profiles for each state.  You can read the full report at

Lumina Recommendations:

1.     Base post secondary education on learning outcomes.  The Lumina Foundation proposes the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) which provides a common framework for defining learning outcomes across all programs, institutions and degrees.

2.       Create clear and flexible pathways to degrees to help students in choosing courses and reducing time to graduation.  Students should be able to transfer easily between institutions.  These pathways should be aligned with the changing needs of society and the economy.   Include credit for work and military experience.
3.       Make higher education accessible and affordable to all who need it.  Some ways to decrease cost include online education and competency based education.  Current models of funding are based on time rather than learning.  There is a need to focus on the student and learning rather than seat time.  Changes in the accreditation process may be needed to adapt to new ways of delivering education.