The 60% Degree Completion Initiative
As the United States begins to wake up to the realities of the knowledge economy, increasing the degree completion rate has been identified as a critical method to buttress the workforce. To this end, the Lumina Foundation and the federal government have both set national degree completion targets of 60 percent to be reached over the next decade. This Mini Feature will explore the degree completion target from every angle; from the efficacy of the target to its impact on other areas of higher education.
Understanding the Degree Completion Target
The 60 percent attainment target, based on international trends and labor market projections, is critical for the American economy, society and individuals.
While degree-holders have historically earned higher wages than non-degree holders, one should not discount the value of sub-baccalaureate postsecondary education.
More than labor market growth, the health of the society and citizenry relies on its citizens to be educated and inquisitive.
A degree is critical for adults to who want find work or advance their career.
Exploring the Value of Degree Alternatives
Prior learning can be as valuable for an adult’s workforce advance and success as a credential, but more effort must be made by higher education and government leaders to more closely integrate the two elements.
Certifications are not receiving the same recognition as certificates when it comes to supporting workforce success, but they should be brought into the fold.
As prior learning, competency and experiential learning gain more weight, traditional degrees are losing their monopoly as pathways to career success and progress.
Degrees and noncredit certificates and certifications have their own benefits and values, but the best option depends on the individual’s situation.
The Dangers of Setting a Degree Completion Target
Setting a target for degree completion and attainment does not translate to an increase in degree program quality; it more likely spells its decline.
Content, competencies and knowledge are more tied to labor market advancement and success than simply holding a piece of paper, but institutions have an opportunity to make programming more relevant.
The Benefits of the Degree Completion Target
Achieving the degree completion targets are going to take coordinated efforts from institutions, employers, government bodies and larger associations.
There are a number of strategies that can be put into place to ensure that the quality of postsecondary education remains high while pursuing the 60 percent degree completion target.
The completion target will lead to a culture change across the postsecondary education space to make higher education more student-centric and outcome-focused.
The Downsides of the Degree Completion Target
Finding ways to bring just-in-time learning programming and relevant skills into degree program requirements will go a long way to making the 60 percent completion initiative work toward strengthening the workforce.
Setting federal targets for college completion is a recipe for a highly-unemployed population with overblown and unrealized wage expectations.