Public Viewpoint

How Colleges Help Students Succeed Beyond Completion

January 19, 2022


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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.3“Public Viewpoint: COVID-19 and the Value of College,” Strada Education Network, 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.4“Student Outcomes Beyond Completion: National Findings from the 2021 Strada Outcomes Survey,” Strada Education Network, October 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.


$10 Million Beyond Completion Challenge

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. 



Courtney H. McBeth

Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer

Kimberly Sluis

Vice President, Programs

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