The New Postsecondary Reality: Structured and Supportive Pathways to Credential Attainment


America’s high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates have reached record highs in recent years, but a staggering portion of students who enroll in some form of college leave before attaining a credential. Research continues to indicate the labor market value of multiple types of postsecondary and technical credentials other than the traditional four-year degree, but completion rates at non-four year institutions are even lower than completion rates at four-year institutions. Over a third of America’s college students attend community colleges, but nearly half of those do not attain a credential within eight years, leaving them no better off in the labor market than those with only a high school diploma. Failure to support students to completion or credential attainment disproportionately affects first-generation students, students from low-income families, and students of color, fueling concerns of an attainment gap. Despite these challenges, examples exist from across the country of innovative and effective ways to support students from K-12 through postsecondary credential attainment.

Additional Resources:

Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale et al., Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots

Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: Credentials and Competencies: Demonstrating the Economic Value of Postsecondary Education

Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: We Need a New Deal between Higher Education and Democratic Capitalism

Denver Education Compact

Article: New Hampshire Community Colleges Balancing Access, Affordability

Article (CUNY Guttman Community College): Why this community college is getting rid of remedial classes

New York Times: How to Improve Graduation Rates at Community Colleges

MDRC: Doubling Graduation Rates: Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students

Jobs for the Future: Building Pathways to Credentials, Careers, and Economic Mobility: Ten Recommendations for the Trump Administration

William T. Grant Foundation: The New Forgotten Half and Research Directions to Support Them

The New Forgotten Half: Those Who Pursue College But Never Earn a Degree, 
A Forum Hosted by the American Youth Policy Forum

The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF’s events and policy reports are made possible by the support of a consortium of philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.

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