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Report Discusses Promising Strategies for College Completion

What's the secret formula to improve college graduation rates? A report released today by the Grantmakers for Education looks at the challenges and offers some ideas based on a gathering of funders, higher education leaders, researchers, and government officials in May.

From Access to Success: A Funders Guide to Ensuring More Americans Earn Postsecondary Degrees
discusses barriers to college completion. For students, many aren't adequately prepared academically. They also may not have enough information for a good college match and have difficulty navigating through the financial-aid system.

At the institutional level, there is a general lack of emphasis on completion on campuses and lack of data and assessment tools to identify students who need extra help.

Finally, without large-scale data systems aligned with K-12 to track student success, it's difficult for policymakers to come up with solutions. The report is also critical of "arcane" financial-aid policies, and procedures serve as barriers rather than supports for low-income students.

Success varies dramatically from campus to campus when it comes to graduation rates. Institutions that are leading the way on this issue do the following, according to the report:

-Use performance data consistently and from the start to get students needed support;

-Redesign introductory courses where they lose a lot of students;

-Require anything that contributes to student success, such as attendance in lectures, labs, and tutoring sessions;

-Clearly assign responsibility for student success at the department level, at the advisory level, at the leadership level so there is accountability;

-Leaders focus on student success as an institutional priority; and

-Don't give up on students. Schools reach out to students who have left, asking them to come back and providing the supports they need to succeed once they return.

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