In our knowledge-based global marketplace of the 21st Century, a well-educated population is the key to our nation's innovation, economic development, and ability to compete. This need is confirmed by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which shows that 90% of the jobs in the fastest growing occupations require some level of postsecondary education and training.
This focus on postsecondary education begins with ensuring that our nation's K-12 system adequately prepares students with the skills necessary to succeed. Beyond expanding access to postsecondary education is the need to ensure that students are benefiting from such experience regardless of the type of education they pursue. The options for postsecondary education are numerous including industry recognized certifications, apprenticeship programs, two-year degrees, four-year degrees, graduate degrees, and professional programs. Equally diverse and innovative are the types of institutions which provide postsecondary education. Regardless of their type, all institutions must be held accountable for their performance and provide transparency to allow students to make educated choices on what institution and program best fits their needs.
Our nation's postsecondary education system is one of our crowning achievements. Yet, too often students who are otherwise capable of successfully completing a postsecondary education program are unable to do so due to other barriers. We must break down these barriers, and ensure American higher education lives up to the promise it has earned throughout our history as a nation. We must not rest on our laurels; we must instead rededicate ourselves to a continual focus on quality and innovation to ensure that our system of higher education is able to continue to call itself the best in the world for generations to come. As policymakers examine the role that federal government plays in higher education, we would suggest that start with a careful examination of the following key issues:
A. Improving College Readiness
High school students must graduate with a meaningful high school diploma that prepares them to enter and succeed in postsecondary education programs. Too often, this is not the case as demonstrated by the fact that 40% of all college students end up taking at least one non-credit or developmental course. This not only creates additional barriers for students to complete a postsecondary education, it also presents additional and unnecessary costs for both students and taxpayers. Therefore, there must be better alignment between high school graduation requirements, state academic achievement standards, and postsecondary entrance requirements. Such alignment will increase understanding of what is needed to transition from high school to postsecondary education and increase the likelihood of student success once admitted. Alignment is also necessary between postsecondary education and employer expectations.
In addition to improved alignment, college readiness can also be improved by exposing secondary students to effective programs which provide a wide range of support services (particularly for first-generation students) ranging from college counseling to mentoring, as a means to better prepare them for college. Many of these programs are funded through the federal government and should be supported to the extent they demonstrate effectiveness....