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Increase College Completion

Strategies Success Stories

The path to a quality degree or certificate starts well before college.  Far too many American students are not completing high school and those who do are not well prepared. [1] With a 61% remediation rate in the nation’s community colleges, it is clear that students are not getting the preparation they need to be successful in college-level coursework . [2] The challenges are not over once the students are enrolled in college. With a six-year completion rate of 57.5% for four-year institutions and only 27.8% completing a certificate or associate degree within 150 percent of normal time at a two-year institution, it is imperative that states focus on effective policies to increase college completion.[3]   Policymakers can focus on improvements in readiness, access, persistence, and completion.

What Can Policymakers Do?

  • Increase College Readiness.   Policymakers could work with K-12, higher education and other critical stakeholders to: improve alignment between high school and college, increase rigor of the high school curriculum, align assessments, increase dual enrollment opportunities, and include college readiness in high school accountability. [4]
  • Expand Access.     Access to a college education has long been at the top of the higher education policy agenda. Now, more than ever, there is a need to focus attention to those students less likely to have the academic and financial resources to consider college as an option. Assistance with completing financial aid applications, enhancing need-based financial aid programs [5]  and redesigning developmental education instruction [6] are strategies for increasing access.
  • Improve Persistence Rates.   Individualized academic tracking and accelerated degree opportunities are strategies that promote student success by focusing attention on progress towards degree. [7]
  • Increase Completion.   Readiness, access and persistence related policies indirectly influence completion, however, dedicated resources must also be directed to strategies specific to degree completion. [8]
[3] Snyder, T.D., and Dillow, S.A. (2010). Digest of Education Statistics 2009
[4] Achieve, 2011. Closing the Achievement Gap .
[5] Long, B. Financial Aid: A Key To Community College Student Success .
[7]  Tinto, Vincent. Colleges as Communities: Taking Research on Student Persistence Seriously, The Review of Higher Education - Volume 21, Number 2, Winter 1998, pp. 167-177.

State higher education leaders and a legislator offer their perspectives on a basic definition of productivity in higher education.


Tennessee's Complete College Act to improve student performance and graduation rates at both the high school and college levels.


A Texas law requires public university students to develop a graduation plan.