Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Nation's Governors Tackle College-Completion Rates: Result Could Impact Funding and Force Schools to Refocus Curriculums on Work-Force Development

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Nation's Governors Tackle College-Completion Rates: Result Could Impact Funding and Force Schools to Refocus Curriculums on Work-Force Development

Article excerpt

Following President Barack Obama's lead, the National Governor s Association (NGA) last month launched an initiative to increase the number of degrees and certificates awarded and to improve product Mty at higher education institutions. Public institutions enroll approximately four of every five students.

"The nation has fallen from first to 12th in the world in the number of students who complete degrees. Now, we're faced with a generation of students that is projected to have lower educational attainment than their parents," West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III, head of the association, said in announcing the initiative "Complete to Compete."

Initially, participating states will identify a common set of metrics that include outcomes such as degrees and certificates awarded, graduation rates, transfer rates and time and credits to degree. These will track students from semester to semester and year to year to help identify specific challenges and opportunities for improvement. The hope is that they also signal when institutions need to provide increased access to interventions and support services to improve the likelihood of completion.

The plan also calls for metrics that determine how they're progressing, such as remedial education enrollment, credit accumulation, retention rates and first-year success. In addition, it recommends that the progress and completion metrics be disaggregated by gender, race/ethnicity, income, age, enrollment status, degree type and discipline. The goal here is to significantly close the gaps in success rates for low-income and minority students, as well as nontraditional subgroups like adults and part-time students.

Leaders hope that gathering such information will help them develop a national completion rate strategy and make future funding decisions. This is particularly important as the nation slowly recovers from an economic downturn that has left most state budgets crippled and in deep deficit.

"The metrics will help inform funding decisions, but if not a lot of funding is available, no matter what the data says there's a question of what types of programs and services can be funded," says Dr. Bryan Cook, director of the American Council on Education's Center for Policy Analysis. "The value of having these kinds of metrics is that it will help them get a bit more bang for their buck. They can use it to target areas they think will make the most change in completion rates as opposed to broad data that doesn't tell you where money is best spent. This will help them better spend diminishing resources."

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