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Stronger Nation Report 2015

ACCN Blog Earlier this month, Lumina Foundation released their 2015 edition of the A Stronger Nation through Higher Education report. The report is issued annually and examines the nation’s progress towards meeting Lumina’s Goal 2025, which calls for 60 percent of working-age Americans to hold a degree or other high-quality postsecondary credential by 2025. Primarily using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey, the authors present a detailed picture of higher education attainment in the United States at the metropolitan, county, and state levels. While Lumina highlights progress in postsecondary attainment over the past few years, the overarching theme of the report is that we must do more over the next 10 years to achieve Goal 2025. In particular, the report calls for accelerating the postsecondary attainment rate through: improved enrollment, persistence, and completion, particularly by underrepresented students; support for adults’ efforts to return to college; and recognition of all forms of high-quality postsecondary credentials.

As in previous years, the report makes special mention of the some college, no degree population – including the group in their “road map” to reaching Goal 2025. While past iterations of Stronger Nation have presented progress in terms of decreasing the overall percentage of working-age adults with some college, no degree, the 2015 report reframes the issue. This year, Lumina instead puts forth a target of 15 percent of the nation’s current 36.2 million some college, no degree population earning a credential or degree over the next 10 years. Assuming degree production were to be spread equally across the next decade, this would equate to 543,000 adults with prior college credit completing a postsecondary credential or degree each year.

A key strategy which Lumina champions for increasing postsecondary attainment–one particularly applicable to adult learners looking to quickly complete marketable credentials–is the increased use and acceptance of high-quality, non-degree credentials. The foundation defines these as “those with clear and transparent learning outcomes leading to further education and employment.” The report notes that the U.S. Census plans to begin collecting data on certificates as early as next year, and suggests this will lead to an increase of “at least 5 percent” in the national attainment rate.

The report acknowledges that meeting its metrics will be no easy task. Between 2013 and 2014, enrollment, persistence, and completion rates all declined for the working-age population – and in each case the drop was greater for adults 25 and over compared to those in the 18-24 age group. Though these data track first-time students, it represents a trend among adult students more broadly which suggests that the improving economy is drawing adults back into the workforce and away from higher education. Therefore those who serve the some college, no degree population have an especially important—yet especially challenging—role to play in meeting Goal 2025.

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