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Five Questions That College Leaders Should Be Asking to Improve Student Success in 2024

Eric Bing

Moving the needle on graduation rates might be the most pressing challenge for today’s higher education leaders. While some individual campuses have emerged as success stories around college completion, growth in the nation’s college completion rate has stalled at 62.2%, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Eric BingEric BingFailing to graduate isn’t necessarily the fault of the learner, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college or older students trying to balance school, jobs, families and a host of personal responsibilities. Rather, the blame often lies with the institutions, which remain stuck in a previous era and have not evolved to meet the needs of most working learners.

To better serve these learners, institutions must build programs for the busy adults and first-generation students who make up significant and growing shares of today’s college population. College leaders serious about improving student success and graduating the learners who enroll in their institutions should ask themselves these five questions as we head into 2024:

Do we have programs that work for someone living day to day?

Many adult learners must prioritize earning a living and caring for their families. Institutions must respect this reality by maximizing flexibility for learners and structure their programs to promote student success.

Programs should start monthly and be as short as possible. Four- and eight-week courses and shorter terms can accelerate student learning. Programs also should award certificates of value, such as embedded industry-validated credentials— which can improve employment rates and median incomes for those who hold them — and offer multiple on- and off-ramps so learners can easily move back and forth between school and work.

Have we created programs that limit the need for child care?

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