As a field, higher education has experienced a continuing evolution in how to measure success. For nearly five decades success efforts were focused on access, followed by the past decade and a half pursuing completion, and the field now has a growing focus on the value of a degree and student outcomes beyond completion. With equitable student success at the forefront, college and university leaders are pursuing the solutions for a future where all students realize the benefits of their investment in postsecondary education — employment, economic, social, and otherwise.
While not a new phenomenon, the years of the COVID-19 pandemic have been marked by further erosion of public confidence in the value of higher education. This lack of confidence among prospective and current students revolves around return on investment and is driven by questions about the connection between education and a good job. In contrast, the pandemic and resulting economic crisis made clear the value of a degree or credential after high school. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, workers without a degree were more likely than their peers with a degree to become unemployed during the pandemic. These data become even more stark when viewed with an equity lens, as the 2020 and 2021 unemployment rate for African-American and Hispanic workers without degrees was far higher than their white counterparts.
As the nation responds to the pandemic and the economic upheaval, higher education and policy leaders have the opportunity to simultaneously address eroding public confidence in the value of postsecondary education and training to better meet workforce needs by focusing on postgraduation outcomes to drive new thinking, solutions, strategies, and policies that will better connect education and work.
According to data from Strada’s Student Viewpoint Survey and the 2021 Strada Outcomes Survey, students are nearly five times more likely to say their education is worth the cost when they have excellent support to connect their education to their future career.1“Public Viewpoint: COVID-19 and the Value of College,” Strada Education Network, October 27, 2020, https://cci.stradaeducation.org/pv-release-october-27-2020/. In addition, graduates who had strong career-related experiences, such as internships, project-based learning, and career and job placement, reported higher postcompletion earnings and were much more likely to say their education was worth the cost and that it helped them achieve their goals.2“Student Outcomes Beyond Completion: National Findings from the 2021 Strada Outcomes Survey,” Strada Education Network, October 27, 2021, https://cci.stradaeducation.org/pv-release-oct-27-2021/.
Put simply, when degree holders look back and report valuable experiences connecting their education-to-career preparation and the development of skills valued in the labor market, they are more satisfied with the value of their education and their post-graduation outcomes are markedly better.
In light of these national trends and the desire to support student success through and beyond completion of degrees and credentials after high school, Strada launched the Beyond Completion Challenge — a $10 million national competitive grant process to incentivize and support innovation aimed at improving equitable outcomes for students. Strada invited institutions within the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity — a group of 36 universities and systems serving 2.4 million students that formed amid the pandemic to reimagine a higher education system — to submit proposals. Through the process of reviewing grant proposals and engaging with many higher education leaders from across the country, we’ve observed trends and initial insights into how leaders and institutions are adapting and innovating to advance more equitable postgraduation outcomes for the students they serve. We are delighted to highlight the work of our campus-based colleagues in hopes that we can inform, inspire, and support the many leaders working to change students’ lives and trajectories. We started this in today’s Public Viewpoint webinar and will continue to share insights throughout both phase one and phase two of the Beyond Completion Challenge.
Higher education’s measurement of student success is in the midst of an evolution. For nearly five decades, success efforts focused on access, then two decades with completion as the horizon for success, and now the focus is extending to student outcomes beyond completion.
Applied connections between education and work are increasingly a part of undergraduate education in the United States.
Two centuries after the first historically Black colleges and universities were founded, the 101 accredited HBCUs in operation today continue to deliver on their legacy of expanding educational opportunity for Black students that leads to successful and fulfilling lives.
As a field, higher education has experienced a continuing evolution in how to measure success. For nearly five decades success efforts were focused on access, followed by the past decade and a half pursuing completion, and the field now has a growing focus on the value of a degree and student outcomes beyond completion.
Strada’s prior research on undergraduate perceptions of the value of their education demonstrates that students value their education most when they receive support to connect their education and career interests.
In the wake of historic pandemic-related enrollment declines, postsecondary institutions have responded by developing and expanding innovative approaches to engaging learners.
The baccalaureate degree remains the surest path to economic mobility, employment stability, and a host of associated social benefits.
Steep declines in undergraduate enrollment during 2020 and 2021 threaten to widen existing equity gaps in college completion and career opportunities.
Nondegree credentials have been growing rapidly for decades. During the COVID-19 economic crisis, interest in nondegree credentials and skills training options was especially high. Questions about their quality and value, however, remain.
The high school classes of 2020 and 2021 have endured massive disruption to their education.
The pandemic has led to a national crisis of widespread disruption to both work and education for millions of adults in the U.S., especially those from historically marginalized groups.
From its onset in early 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has upended life across the world, leading to uncertainty around health, work, finances, education, and a host of other issues.
Over the past 15 years, the number of student loan recipients has increased by 51 percent and the debt associated with those loans has more than doubled.
We asked alumni nationwide who had borrowed money to go to school if their loans were worth it. Strada Education Network and Gallup surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 student loan holders.
Our mission is to improve lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment.
How Intermediaries Can Connect Education and Work in a Postpandemic World
How is COVID-19 affecting college students currently enrolled at American four-year institutions?