DENVER -- America has lost its lead as the country with the highest percentage of college-educated citizens and now is struggling to get it back. Just over half—56 percent—of students that enroll in a four-year institution earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. Only 28 percent of associate degree-seeking students earn their degree within three years. The statistics for students of color are even worse—just 41 percent of black and 47 percent of Hispanic college students attain their bachelor’s degree in six years, compared to 59 percent of white students.
State legislators can help turn this statistic around by focusing on non-traditional students, particularly low-income, minority and first-generation students. This demographic is underrepresented and underserved in the public education system. These students are the fastest growing populations and the least likely to finish high school, enroll in college, or earn a degree. The result is a significant and serious achievement gap that threatens states and the nation.
"Higher education can improve individual lives, help bolster state economies, fill workforce needs and sustain America's economic competitiveness," said Brenda Bautsch, education policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). "Now is the time for states to act on improving the path to a degree for all students."
NCSL's The Path to a Degree: A Legislator's Guide to College Access and Success contains six briefs written for state legislators that provide an overview of key issues, discuss research findings, and offer examples of specific state action that can improve college access and success for underrepresented students.
The brief on college planning strategies highlights efforts by states such as Delaware, Kentucky and Washington. Policies in California, Colorado and Texas regarding high school standards, graduation requirements, and college-ready assessments are examined in the brief on college and workforce readiness. Indiana, Massachusetts and Oklahoma are featured in the brief on financial aid strategies to improve college affordability. And in the brief on college success strategies, Arkansas, Illinois and South Carolina are highlighted as states supporting evidence-based college success programs at their higher education institutions.
The state examples listed in this publication demonstrate that legislators have the power to design and implement policies that help all students be academically and financially prepared for college, and be effectively supported during college to complete a degree.
This NCSL publication is for sale in our bookstore. Members of the media may receive a free copy of NCSL's The Path to a Degree: A Legislator's Guide to College Access and Success by contacting the press room. Members of the media are prohibited from reproducing, linking or uploading this NCSL publication in any way.
NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.