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ERIC Number: ED529485
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Feb
Pages: 125
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Pathways to Success: Integrating Learning with Life and Work to Increase National College Completion. A Report to the U.S. Congress and Secretary of Education
Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance
College completion rates are stagnant or falling today, particularly among young Americans, a trend that threatens to undermine the nation's global competitiveness and further exacerbate inequality in the nation's income distribution. In the past, efforts to ensure academic quality, access, and student success in higher education have produced among the highest college completion rates in the world. Thus, reversing the current trend and increasing college completion has become an imperative at all levels of American government. At the federal level, the goal to have the world's highest rate of college completion is now front and center. Achieving this important goal by 2020 will require a formidable effort to increase the nation's college degrees and certificates. Previous Advisory Committee reports have shown how challenging achievement of the 2020 goal will be among the nation's recent high school graduates. Complementing those reports, this effort focuses on students referred to in the past as the nontraditional population, the largest subset of students in the nation. Defining or labeling this population concisely is virtually impossible, given the considerable diversity of its demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Categorized across the dimensions of age, marital status, family size and composition, level and type of employment, and educational preparation and goals, this population--often referred to as 21st century or contemporary students--consists of many subgroups, each with unique circumstances, educational needs, and goals. Achieving the 2020 goal among these students is an undertaking as daunting as the population is large and diverse. The task is made more difficult by two considerations. First, higher education is not structured to serve this population adequately nor are most financial aid programs. Second, unlike that for recent high school graduates, nationally representative data that tracks nontraditional college enrollment and persistence do not exist. Increasing college completion among nontraditional students must begin with careful consideration of the invaluable experience of those in higher education who have dedicated their professional lives to better integrate higher learning with the life and work of these students. To bring these professionals together, the Advisory Committee held a hearing in Washington DC on September 30, 2011, and asked two panels of experts--state and institutional--to address three key questions of policy and practice related to adequately serving nontraditional students: (1) Barriers: What are the primary barriers to access and persistence for nontraditional students?; (2) Best Practices: What are the most promising state and institutional strategies and policies for overcoming those barriers?; and (3) Federal Role: What role should the federal government play in encouraging states and institutions to implement best practices? Highlights of the panelists' responses at the hearing are shown in Exhibit One. The full transcript reveals a wealth of imperatives for policymakers to consider in developing a federal strategy (pages 7-65). The overriding consensus among the panelists was that increasing degree and certificate completion among nontraditional students will require modifications in the structure and delivery of higher education, as well as changes to federal student aid programs. Innovative proposals for policy and practice are highlighted throughout the transcript and summarized in Conclusions & Implications (pages 67-79). The ultimate challenge for the federal government is to find ways to encourage implementation of the best of these innovative state and institutional ideas, while simultaneously increasing degree and certificate completion among recent high school graduates who have prepared for and aspire to college. Appended are: (1) Examples of Subgroups That Comprise the Nontraditional Student Population; (2) Examples of Potential Barriers to Higher Education for Nontraditional Students by Subgroup in a Sample of Publications; (3) Nontraditional Students Study Panelists at the March 17, 2011 Advisory Committee Hearing; (4) Nontraditional Students Study Panelists at the September 30, 2011 Advisory Committee Hearing; (5) ACSFA Members; (6) ACSFA Staff; and (7) ACSFA Authorizing Legislation. (Contains 110 resources.) [For related report, "Written Testimony on Nontraditional Students Submitted for September 30, 2011 ACSFA Hearing," see ED529527.]
Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. 80 F Street NW Suite 413, Washington, DC 20202-7582. Tel: 202-219-2099; Fax: 202-219-3032; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance