Improving College Access and Completion

GOAL: Identify, test, and advance policies and practices that increase student success in higher education.                                                               

The Challenge: 

It is clear that the future of America’s democracy and economic vitality is tied to increasing the percentage of citizens with a college degree.  Today, just 39 percent of adults possess at least an associate degree. Most experts believe that 60 percent of adults need to attain postsecondary credentials in order to meet workforce demands.  Analysts estimate that 59 percent of jobs today require some postsecondary education and that by 2018 there could be as many as 3 million unfilled jobs due to a shortage of college graduates.  Today, however, the fastest growing groups of young people are among the least likely to graduate from high school and enter college.  And, too many universities struggle to graduate students who do find their way to campus.  Improving pathways to college which includes finding ways to make it more affordable, narrowing persistent enrollment and attainment gaps, and improving student success represent critical challenges for the higher education systems. 

SEF’s higher education efforts are designed to address a range of issues that influence student success and degree attainment among low income and minority students. With a focus on the postsecondary institutions most likely to serve these students, SEF takes up critical issues known to influence their participation and completion in higher education.

Our Strategy: 

  • Examine and report on policies that impact participation, retention, and degree completion;
  • Establish demonstration projects that serve as laboratories for testing innovative practices that hold the promise of increasing degree completion;
  • Convene institutional leaders and university trustees to share evidence-based practices that include institutional effectiveness; and
  • Provide technical assistance and capacity building to institutions to enhance program effectiveness and student learning outcomes.

Areas of Focus:

MSI Consortium for Innovation and Change
The MSI Consortium for Innovation and Change is designed to highlight and support state-of-the-art initiatives that promise to improve institutional practice and outcomes for students. SEF identifies and engages institutions that have deep interest and/or investment in enhancing practices that directly improve student success.  SEF aims to promote innovative and effective practices by testing existing programs, performing campus demonstrations, and assessing the effectiveness of promising academic interventions.

Resources and Tools:

Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. | UNCF. (2017).

Postsecondary - Southern Regional Education Board. | SREB. (2017). 

Diverse - Higher Education News and Jobs. | Diverse. (2017).

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. | IPEDS. (2017). 

Troubling Gaps in HOPE Point to Need-based Aid Solutions. | Claire Suggs. Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. (2016). Not Just Faster: Equity and Learning Centered Developmental Education Strategies. | Southern Education Foundation. (2016).

Navigating the New Normal toolkit. | Southern Education Foundation. (2015).
Navigating the New Normal: Financial Imperatives for MSI Effectiveness and Avoiding Financial Exigency. | Gerald Hector. Southern Education Foundation. (2014).
Navigating the New Normal webinar. | Southern Education Foundation. (2014).
Performance Funding at MSIs: Considerations and Possible Measures for Public MSIs. | Southern Education Foundation. (2014).
Latino College Completion: United States. | Excelencia in Education. (2014).
Historically Black Colleges and Universities Data Dashboard. | U.S. Department of Education: White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (2014).
Tough Love: Bottom-Line Quality Standards for Colleges. | The Education Trust. (2014).
The Effect of Enrolling in a Minority-Serving Institution for Black and Hispanic Students in Texas. | Stella M. Flores, Toby J. Park. (2014).
Minority-Serving Institutions: Doing More with Less. | Institute for Higher Education Policy. (2014).
Advancing Excellence, Enhancing Equity: Making the Case for Assessment at Minority-Serving Institutions. | Jo Beld. Southern Education Foundation. (2013).
The Game Changers: Are states implementing the best reforms to get more college graduates? | Complete College America. (2013).
Top 100 Minority Degree Producers. | Diverse Issues in Higher Education. (2014).


Learn more from the Field:

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), National Center for Education Statistics
Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)The Education Trust
College Results Online
Center for Minority Serving Institutions
UNCF, Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute Research 
Excelencia in Education

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Learn more by connecting with Amanda Assalone, Postdoctoral Research and Policy Analyst, Higher Education Research and Policy.

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