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Race, Elite College Admissions, and the Courts: The Pursuit of Racial Equality in Education Retreats to K–12 Schools

June 12, 2023

If the Supreme Court bans race-conscious affirmative action, as expected, selective higher education institutions almost certainly will become less diverse, reducing the rates of degree attainment among students from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. This report explores the legal history of racial equity in education, evaluates alternatives to using race/ethnicity in college admissions, and considers changes to the K–12 education system that would improve educational opportunity. In the long term, the only way to ensure diversity at selective higher education institutions is to confront the segregation and inequity in K–12 education and society at large.

The State of Higher Education 2023

May 1, 2023

College enrollment rates are lower now than they were before the pandemic, and perhaps even more concerning, undergraduate credential completions fell for the first time in a decade in the 2021-2022 academic year.Gallup and Lumina Foundation have partnered to better understand barriers to enrollment, why currently enrolled students may be considering leaving their programs — and what makes them stay.

Some College, No Credential Student Outcomes: Annual Progress Report – Academic Year 2021/22

April 25, 2023

As of July 2021, the Some College, No Credential (SCNC) population has reached 40.4 million, up 1.4 million from 39.0 million in the previous year. A lack of re-enrollment and 2.3 million new SCNC students (recent stop-outs) drove this large growth. All 50 states and D.C. experienced growth. Re-engaging with the SCNC population has been a priority for many states with an established postsecondary attainment goal. To succeed in bringing them back into higher education, state and institutional leaders need accurate and timely information about the current SCNC population, their re-re-enrollment, and subsequent progress, which is the focus of this annual progress reporting of SCNC students. This annual report series was developed with support from Lumina Foundation.Latest data suggests that there is an increasingly missed opportunity for states and institutions to re-engage with SCNC students even as the SCNC population is growing, but potential completers and recent stop-outs may be a promising group to pursue with more focus to meet attainment goals.

Race-Conscious Affirmative Action: What's Next

March 27, 2023

An expected national ban on the consideration of race in college admissions will threaten the racial and ethnic diversity of students at selective colleges unless these colleges fundamentally alter their admissions practices. Race-Conscious Affirmative Action: What's Next finds that selective colleges barred from considering race and ethnicity in their admissions decisions may be able to partially claw back some racial/ethnic diversity using class-conscious admissions practices, but they will be extremely unlikely to enroll student bodies that come close to mirroring the demographic diversity of the high school class.

Building on Completion Gains: Amplifying Progress and Closing Persistent Gaps

January 26, 2023

Across the country, colleges using Complete College America (CCA) strategies are improving graduation rates. But despite these overall gains, data continues to show persistent institutional performance gaps for BILPOC (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, People of Color) students and students ages 25 and older.Students in both of these groups disproportionately attend college part time, and data consistently shows a range of institutional performance gaps for part-time students. But these facts tells only part of the story.Enrollment intensity is not a factor in all of the institutional performance gaps that BILPOC students and students ages 25 and older experience. For example, part-time enrollment rates cannot account for these students' experiencing dramatically lower gateway course completion rates.Thus, colleges must use multiple lenses for reforms.Of course, colleges must implement reforms to address the challenges facing part-time students. These changes—such as course schedules that accommodate working learners and supports that facilitate increased enrollment intensity—are essential for improving retention and completion rates.At the same time, improvements that better serve part-time students are not enough. Colleges and universities also must address institutional performance gaps that are specific to BILPOC students, students ages 25 and older, and students who fall in both of these groups.Closing these gaps begins with identifying them. This report includes data from CCA Alliance members, allowing CCA to provide national numbers on metrics not tracked in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Using this CCA data, combined with publicly available data, this report highlights critical institutional performance gaps—and explains how colleges can act to close them

Race, Ethnicity, and the Design of State Grant Aid Programs

January 26, 2023

Most states use need-based state grant programs to reduce financial barriers to college for students from low-income households. The policy design and eligibility requirements of these grant programs vary from state to state and even across sectors. But some policies may unintentionally disproportionately exclude students from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups.In this report, we analyze data on students who attend college in their state of legal residence and examine how the characteristics of need-based state grant programs affect students from different racial and ethnic groups. We focus on 11 states with significant need-based grant programs and examine both program structure and the distribution of aid among students from different racial and ethnic groups. We find that some of the eligibility restrictions for state grants, including those based on time part-time enrollment, time since high school graduation, and high school academic record, may have differential impacts by race and ethnicity.The data show that differences in aid receipt are not as large or as prevalent as one might expect, but in some states, Black, Hispanic, or Asian students are less likely than others in similar financial circumstances to receive state grant aid. These differences usually do not occur within the public four-year sector but occur either among public two-year college students or among college students overall. Another significant issue is the relatively small share of state grant aid going to students attending public two-year colleges, which tend to enroll relatively large shares of Black and Hispanic students.Each state has a unique program design for need-based aid, and both student demographics and enrollment patterns vary considerably among states, so the most effective policies will differ from state to state. If states want to ensure inclusivity in their need-based state grant programs, they would be well advised to examine their policies for differential impacts by race and ethnicity.

Inclusive Policy Research and Policy Development with Impacted Communities: A Toolkit for Think Tanks, Policy Nonprofits, and Governments

June 15, 2022

Our nation has a long history of excluding individuals and communities from the policymaking table--because of their race, ethnicity, or immigration status; their age, income, or educational level; or any number of other factors--even though they are often those who are most affected by our policy choices. Nowhere is the exclusion of directly impacted communities more indefensible than in our democracy and policymaking process, the precise forums where decisions are made about how to prioritize, develop, and implement the solutions to our collective problems. For policy leaders who want to develop, influence, enact, and implement public policies to build a more just society, eliminating this systemic exclusion is critical.This toolkit identifies and shares best practices on how public policy organizations, including government agencies or offices, can engage directly impacted communities and individuals in policy research and policy development with an aim toward true inclusion, collaboration, empowerment, and equity.

LIGHTING THE PATH to Remove Systemic Barriers in Higher Education and Award Earned Postsecondary Credentials Through IHEP’s Degrees When Due Initiative

April 29, 2022

Higher education is the surest pathway to a better living and a better life. Yet, the goal of a valuable college credential goes unrealized for too many students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. Today, more than 36 million Americans have some college credit, but no awarded degree and, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the studies of even more students, deepening inequities that already are pervasive.Lighting the Path shares key findings from Degrees When Due, a nationwide completion initiative to reengage students and build institutional capacity. The report sets forth key findings on barriers to reenrollment, persistence, and completion; outlines strategies to best support returning students; and offers recommendations for policymakers at every level--institutional, state, and federal--to promote equitable degree completion.

Persevering to Completion: Understanding the Experiences of Adults Who Successfully Returned to College

March 30, 2022

In recent years, both policymakers and practitioners working to increase postsecondary attainment rates in the United States have shifted their focus from college access to college success. At the same time, they have recognized that the prevalence of 36 million adults with some college education but no postsecondary credential is an important consequence of the many challenges facing American college students. Adults with some college but no credential face a range of barriers to both re-enrolling in college and completing a credential if they re-enroll. Those who have made several attempts to attend college may be burdened by student loans and other educational debt but cannot reap the social and economic benefits associated with earning a postsecondary credential. Given this reality, policymakers and postsecondary institutions must identify effective ways to support these individuals if and when they do try to return to college. Commissioned by the Lumina Foundation, this study offers a unique opportunity to better understand the experiences of adults who stopped out of college, re-enrolled, and either successfully completed a credential or seemed likely to do so. Based on a new survey of these successful returning students, the study investigates the challenges and supports they view as important to their ability to remain enrolled and attain a postsecondary credential, with the goal of identifying factors that facilitated their success. 

The Colleges Where Low-Income Students Get the Highest ROI

January 24, 2022

College typically pays off for low-income students, but not as much as it does for their peers. Low-income students, whose families earn $30,000 or less per year, comprise more than one-third of college students. The Colleges Where Low-Income Students Get the Highest ROI finds that low-income students have a lower return on investment (ROI) than all students, largely because they tend to earn less as adults. This holds true across public and private institutions and certificates, associate's degrees, and bachelor's degrees. Among institutions that primarily award bachelor's degrees, public institutions generally lead to the highest ROI for low-income students during a 40-year timeframe ($951,000), followed by private nonprofit institutions ($863,000) and for-profit colleges ($763,000). The ROI for low-income students follows a similar pattern at colleges that primarily grant associate's degrees and certificates, with the highest returns from public institutions, followed by private nonprofit and for-profit institutions. However, low-income students' returns from associate's degrees can exceed $1 million, and certificates can be just as lucrative, depending on which college a student attends.

Youth Policy: How Can We Smooth the Rocky Pathway to Adulthood?

December 6, 2021

While boosts in labor demand have helped young workers as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 recession, young people continue to grapple with a youth labor market that has been deteriorating for 20 years. Their prospects have been dimmed by three major recessions: the burst of the dot-com bubble (2001), the Great Recession (2007-2009), and the COVID-19 recession (2020). Further, long-term structural changes in the economy have favored older workers with more experience, training, and education while limiting opportunity for young workers.Youth Policy: How Can We Smooth the Rocky Pathway to Adulthood? examines the United States' fragmented and inadequate approach to youth policy against the backdrop of these economic pressures and recommends changes necessary to move toward a more comprehensive and holistic approach.

Intergenerational Civic Learning: A Path Toward Revitalized Democracy

November 18, 2021

Generational divisions all too often mark political fault lines, but they can also catalyze mutual learning and democratic renewal. Civic intergenerationality is an approach to civic learning grounded in coming together across the life span to create a social and political reality that supports people of all ages. It operates under the assumption that all people are assets to our community, are capable of civic learning, and would benefit from it. By embracing the practice of civic intergenerationality, we can address America's ongoing civic crisis. We can create a community of lifelong, reciprocal learners that uplifts our youngest civic agents while leveraging the experiences and wisdom of older generations