Pathways to Success
By The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance
College completion rates are stagnant or falling today, particularly among young Americans, a trend that threatens to undermine the nation’s global competitiveness and further exacerbate inequality in the nation’s income distribution. In the past, efforts to ensure academic quality, access, and student success in higher education have produced among the highest college completion rates in the world. Thus, reversing the current trend and increasing college completion has become an imperative at all levels of American government. At the federal level, the goal to have the world’s highest rate of college completion is now front and center. Achieving this important goal by 2020 will require a formidable effort to increase the nation’s college degrees and certificates.
Achieving the 2020 goal among these students is an undertaking as daunting as the population is large and diverse. The task is made more difficult by two considerations. First, higher education is not structured to serve this population adequately nor are most financial aid programs. Second, unlike that for recent high school graduates, nationally representative data that tracks nontraditional college enrollment and persistence do not exist. Increasing college completion among nontraditional students must begin with careful consideration of the invaluable experience of those in higher education who have dedicated their professional lives to better integrate higher learning with the life and work of these students.