Improving college-completion rates is “an economic and moral imperative,” a national higher-education commission said on Wednesday in an open letter to college and university leaders.
The letter, which takes the form of a report subtitled “College Completion Must Be Our Priority,” summarizes a yearlong effort by the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment to identify innovative repairs for colleges’ leaky pipelines.
The 18-member commission, including presidents from every college sector, was assembled in 2011 by the American Council on Education and five other national higher-education associations. The mandate came from President Obama, who has challenged the nation to have the world’s highest proportion of people with college credentials by 2020.
As millions of low-skill, well-paying manufacturing jobs have been automated or outsourced, a growing number of positions require at least some postsecondary education, the report notes. College graduates are also more likely to land jobs with health insurance and retirement plans, are less likely to divorce, and are more likely to be tolerant and civically engaged, it adds.
But while a record number of students now attend college, too few of them graduate, and that’s where colleges should be focusing more attention, the report notes.
First-generation, working, and part-time students far outnumber the 18- to 21-year-old residential students who used to be considered traditional, and the disparity is growing rapidly, the commission points out. They need flexible schedules, more financial help, and an efficient remediation system that doesn’t discourage them so much that they drop out, it says.
“For all students, traditional or not,” the report says, “offering access without a commitment to help students complete their degrees is a hollow promise.” (Read more.)