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Degree Attainment Not Keeping Up With Gains in College Access

Gains on college accessibility should be celebrated, but work still needs to be done to get the increasing number of students who are pursuing higher education to the finish line, according to a new report from The Education Trust.

The Washington-based nonprofit released Replenishing Opportunity in America: The 2012 Midterm Report of Public Higher Education Systems in the Access to Success Initiative, yesterday in partnership with the National Association of System Heads, an association of the chief executives of public colleges and university systems in the United States and Puerto Rico.

The project worked with 22 public higher education systems that pledged to cut the college-going and graduation gaps for low-income and minority students in half by 2015. The report tracked progress since 2007 and found enrollments and degrees completed have increased, driven in large part by African-American, Latino, American Indian, and low-income students. There were no access gaps at two-year colleges for low-income and minority students, compared to their high school graduate peers. At four-year institutions, the access gap for low-income freshmen has been cut in half, and it has closed for low-income transfer students, according to the findings.

The completion picture was not as rosy. Among participating institutions, completion gaps among low-income students and students of color has not yet closed. The report highlights success in attainment at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, San Diego State University, and Florida State University.

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