For more than 60 years, the US has demonstrated its commitment to expanding access to college. As a result of the GI Bill, Pell Grants, and other federal and state initiatives, an astonishing 68% of high school graduates now enroll in college (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), not to mention the millions of displaced workers and other adults seeking to improve their lives through higher education.
In the last decade, we have come to realize that, while access is important, enrollment in higher education without success is hollow. While our colleges have established a strong foundation of access, we now need to turn our attention to ensuring that students succeed. This blog is about precisely that – what it will take for more students to learn at high levels, to graduate from college, and to have success after they graduate, most importantly in getting a job with decent wages.
We know this: Too many students learn too little in their college years. More students need to complete college, not just enroll. In a nation that will soon be majority-minority, colleges cannot continue to see low success rates for low-income and minority students. And, today’s students are tomorrow’s employees and citizens, and we need to prepare them for success in the workforce. There are jobs waiting to be filled today and more coming on line tomorrow, but we are not producing enough college graduates with the right skills to fill them. Success on all these fronts is undeniably important to the future of our country.
Our colleges want to do better. College faculty and administrators want their students to succeed. So do college presidents and those who are advising students. What is missing is a sense of urgency for higher levels of student success – for more college excellence – as well as information about how to achieve it, for college presidents, for faculty, and for students. Our experience in traveling across community and four-year colleges across the country has shown that what colleges do matters, that higher levels of success can be achieved even for under-prepared students.
The goal of our work is to identify those examples of what is working to advance student success, and stimulate the replication of those successes throughout the country, in all institutions of higher education.
College Excellence Program
The Aspen Institute