ATLANTA – States need to place a major focus on increasing the numbers of students who complete college degrees and career certificates — toward the goal of having 60 percent of working-age adults earning some type of high-quality credential by the year 2025, a major new report and set of recommendations from the Southern Regional Education Board urge.
No Time to Waste: Policy Recommendations for Improving College Completion, challenges states to become national leaders in increasing college completion.
"Reaching this goal will require a sea change in state policy and in how higher education operates, starting now," SREB President Dave Spence said. "Nothing less than economic and social progress in our region and across the nation is at stake."
The report includes 10 major policy recommendations for states to pursue — including setting specific and ambitious goals for raising the numbers of each degree type and graduation rates at each institution, system and statewide; better measures of progress to show education attainment levels and how various groups of students are faring, including transfer and part-time students; more attention to college costs and targeted financial aid for the neediest students; high school students’ readiness for college-level work; institutional practices that can help more students succeed; greater efficiency in institutions’ and systems’ operations; clearing an efficient path to degrees for students; bringing many more adults back to college who did not finish degrees and certificates, and more.
SREB states have between 26 percent and 44 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 with a two- or four-year college degree. Data are incomplete on the percentage of adults who hold career/technical certificates, which is one of many issues states need to address.
"We have no choice but to raise the education levels of the population substantially in the next 15 years if we want to remain economically competitive and continue to make social progress in our region," Spence said.
Many state and national leaders with varying views on higher education policy issues served on an SREB advisory panel that contributed to the report.
"Growing consensus is emerging in higher education and among governors, legislators and other leaders on the need to increase college completion in our nation — and in many respects, the actions that need to be taken," Spence said. "This report reflects that growing consensus."
The report cites Georgetown University researcher Anthony Carnevale’s estimate that states will need to increase the number of college degrees and certificates awarded each year by 3 percent to 6 percent annually to meet work-force demands.
Moving forward, SREB plans to work directly with governors, state legislative leaders, state higher education chiefs and many other leaders to help them make state policy changes that will help states continue to expand college access, serve students better and graduate more of them in reasonable amounts of time.
For more information or to speak with SREB officials about the report and to connect with leaders from your state who advised SREB on the report, contact SREB Communications.
The Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB, based in Atlanta, was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help leaders in education and government work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB has 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. More information is available online at www.sreb.org.