To make the U.S. first in the world in college graduates, the nation’s governors need to set ambitious goals for their states, said Vice President Joe Biden yesterday at the Building a Grad Nation summit in Washington. Biden announced a 23-page “College Completion Tool Kit” with recommended strategies, reports the Washington Post.
The administration wants the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Korea is ranked first, with 58 percent of its population ages 25-34 having finished college; the U.S. is in a four-way tie for ninth place at 42 percent, according to a study published last year by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
To regain the top spot, the Education Department projects the nation will need to hike its completion rate by 50 percent, which translates into an additional 8 million students earning associate’s or bachelor’s degrees by the end of the decade.
Currently only 28 percent of young adults in Arkansas, Nevada and New Mexico have earned associate or bachelor’s degrees. Massachusetts, with a 54 percent college graduation rate, leads the nation.
The tool kit offers seven “low-cost or no-cost” strategies to improve college completion:
— Set goals and develop an action plan.
— Embrace performance-based funding.
— Align high school standards with college entrance and placement standards.
— Make it easier for students to transfer.
— Use data to drive decision making.
— Accelerate learning and reduce costs.
— Target adults, especially those with some college but no degree.
States also need to raise high school graduation rates, without watering down classes, said former Democratic West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education,
Education Department data shows that about one-third of first-year college students nationwide had taken at least one remedial course in the 2007-08 school year. At two-year colleges, 42 percent had taken at least one remedial course.
“It’s about first getting the high school diploma, and the second step is making sure there is preparation behind the diploma,” Wise said.
Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core Standards that promise to prepare high school graduates for college or career.
The Grad Nation summit is focused on raising the high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020.
Obama’s goal — a 60 percent college graduation rate by 2020 — ignores many students, Harvard Education Professor Robert Schwartz told the Post.
Schwartz heads the Pathways to Prosperity Project, which released a study in February concluding that the U.S. education system should offer greater emphasis on occupational instruction.
“What’s the strategy for the other 40 percent of people?” he said. “We can’t keep saying, ‘College for all, college for all’ and yet set targets that even if you could meet them are going to leave out very large proportions of young people.”
The Education Department announced $20 million in grants for innovations designed to improve success and productivity at postsecondary schools, reports the Post. The department proposed another $123 million in competitive funds for programs that speed learning, boost completion rates and hold down tuition, plus $50 million to reward states and institutions for producing more college graduates.