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Calling on the Business Community to Boost College Grads

The business community has a lot to offer in the nation's effort to increase college graduation rates, says the head of a philanthropic group.

Between advising higher education on how to be more efficient, supporting workers who pursue college, and advocating policy change, Jamie Merisotis, the president and chief executive officer of Lumina Foundation, today called on business leaders to become part of the movement to boost college graduation.

He spoke at the Economic Club of Indiana in Indianapolis where Merisotis' national private foundation is based.

In this speech, Increasing College Attainment: It's Everyone's Business, Merisotis rallied the corporate community to join Lumina in its "big goal" of getting 60 percent of Americans to hold a college degree or credential by 2025—a substantial increase from the current 40 percent.

Merisotis drew a connection between the skills of the American workforce and economic recovery.

"These facts show clearly that increasing higher education attainment is essential to the nation. Why? Because, without college-level learning, workers simply won't have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today's global economy," he said. "Economists and policymakers at every level and in virtually every state cite higher education as a key factor—perhaps the key factor—in long-term economic growth.

Merisotis called on business leaders to "get in the game"' when it comes to education reform. Specifically, he urged them to work with higher education to become more productive, to assist adult students with tuition support and reward education in the workplace, and to push for policy changes that will boost postsecondary attainment.

"We need a system that ensures quality by fostering genuine learning, not mere program completion ... a system that truly prepares students for work—and for life—in an increasingly global society," says Merisotis. "We believe strongly that higher education needs to be far more focused on the needs of students and less on the needs of higher education institutions."

Too often, in his view, employers, local chambers of commerce, and workforce-development groups have stayed on the sidelines when it comes to higher education reform.

"I want to underscore the urgent need for this sort of broad-based, cooperative action as we confront the challenge of increasing college attainment. The 'big goal' is truly a vital national task. And we all need to be in the game," says Merisotis.

Go here to watch or read the full text of Merisotis' speech.

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