National Spotlight Shines on Graduation

National Spotlight Shines on Graduation

Keeping students in school is a hot topic in U.S. higher education.

It’s no longer enough to help them get to college. Staying there and earning a diploma are the ultimate goals.

There are companies dedicated to helping colleges and universities increase retention and graduation rates, and education philanthropies are getting involved.

This year, Tennessee was among a large group of states pledging to increase college graduation by the year 2020 through Complete College America, which is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

When the Complete College Tennessee Act became law last January, Complete College America hailed the legislation for vaulting the state to the “forefront of an essential paradigm shift in our country, where higher education aligns to meet the needs of modern students and the modern workplace.”

In Tennessee, only 21.4 percent of adults have a 4-year degree, compared with 26.5 percent in the United States and 25.5 percent in the South, according to U.S. Census figures.

This push to see more students get their diplomas comes at an interesting time, when state resources are limited and the economy remains shaky. Governor Phil Bredesen has said the timing is actually ideal because it will make the education system more efficient.

Hilary Pennington of the Gates Foundation thinks so too. “[These] states, facing unprecedented fiscal challenges, have made a historic commitment to higher education, and more important, to the students and communities that will directly benefit from this work.”

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