Research and Policy Briefs

This page features research and policy briefs focused on college access and success. We will add new items as they are released and remove as they become outdated. Items are listed are in alphabetical order.

America's Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots 2016
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
Published: 2016
Summary: This report explores a post-recession phenomenon that has "divided the country along a fault line demarcated by college education." According to the report, "While jobs are back, they are not the same jobs lost during the recession. Over 95 percent of jobs created during the recovery have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind." 

A Stronger Nation: Learning beyond high school builds American talent
Source: Lumina Foundation
Published: 2017
Summary: This report documents America's progress toward reaching Goal 2025 - that 60 percent of Americans will earn a college degree, workforce certificate, industry certification or other high-quality credential beyond high school. It "offers viewers a deep dive into postsecondary attainment data at the national, state, county, and metropolitan-area levels. Data sources are listed at the bottom of every report." View the Michigan-specific report.

Business Leaders' Insights: How Higher Education can Help Michigan Become a Top Ten State
Source: Business Leaders for Michigan
Published: February 4, 2015
Summary: This report explores the specific contributions made by Michigan's higher education sector and discusses the strong and growing need for quality postsecondary options. It builds on recent recommendations for performance-based funding and provides a multi-pronged approach for accelerating the pace toward Top Ten educational attainment. This report also details how higher education can help create more jobs in Michgan. While not addressed in this report, the success of Michigan's higher education institutions in significantly impacted by the readiness of students they receive from high schools. Michigan needs to improve the college and career readiness of high school gradutes and their transition to college; however, addressing those issues should not delay acting on these recommendations.

Certificates: A Gainful Way to Employment and College Degrees
Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
Published: June 2012
CertificatesWebpicSummary: Certificates have swelled to become the second most common postsecondary award in the U.S.: Over 1 million are awarded each year. In the context of concerns about rising college costs and student loan debt, certificates, which are cheaper and take less time to complete than college degrees, have become of increasing interest to researchers, institutions, and other stakeholders in higher education.

In this report, the authors analyze earnings by field of study, sex, race/ethnicity, and program length. One of the most important factors that affects earnings is whether certificate holders work in the same occupational field they studied in. They also take a close look at the demographic characteristics of certificate holders: sex, race/ethnicity, age, educational attainment, academic preparation/skill, family income, and parents’ education.

Last, the report analyzes the institutions that most commonly award certificates – such as community colleges and for-profit institutions – and the states where certificates are most prevalent and provide the highest earnings returns.

Closing the College Gap: A Roadmap to Postsecondary Readiness and Attainment
December 7, 2016
Summary: As the United States' advantage in educational attainment continues to decline, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University joined together to release Closing the College Gap: A Roadmap to Postsecondary Readiness and Attainment. The report analyzes new longitudinal data to link the progress made in raising high school graduation rates to what is known about college readiness, access and persistence; the best indicators of a students’ postsecondary success; and the necessary and complementary roles that both the K-12 and higher education systems must play to raise educational attainments and close opportunity gaps. In order to look at how the nation is actually doing on postsecondary attainment, the first half of this report examines new and existing data on three successive cohorts of young adults whose educational attainment at 25-34 years of age can be measured today or projected in the future.

College Board - Five Ways Ed Pays Campaign
February 2012
The Five Ways Ed Pays campaign presented detailed data and research on the private and public benefits of higher education by sending a compelling message to parents and students – particularly first-generation, minority, and low-income students – that college has the potential to transform their lives. The campaign helped inspire the launch of You Can Go.

Complete College America – Certificates Count: An Analysis of Sub-baccalaureate Certificates
Published: December 2010
Summary: A key goal of the Obama administration has been to create an environment in which every American receives at least one year of postsecondary education. One year is a notable time frame as that it doesn’t correlate with an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. This report suggests that the United States needs to follow that cue and focus on a form of education that comes in a range of durations – the certificate. The report, issued by Complete College America and prepared by FutureWorks, argues that it may be more viable for many Americans with limited time to earn a certificate than to earn a college degree. And the report notes that while those who take some courses toward a degree but do not finish are unlikely to gain much economically from their efforts, there is substantial evidence that certificates do advance people economically. 

National League of Cities – Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success: Getting Started
Published: October 2012
Summary: With support from Lumina Foundation, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families has developed a new series of publications highlighting city strategies to increase local college completion rates.  The series includes three municipal action guides on the following topics:

  • Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success: Getting Started;
  • Conducting a Scan of Local Efforts to Promote Postsecondary Success; and
  • Using and Sharing to Improve Postsecondary Success.

The first guide in the series, Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success: Getting Started, outlines a set of action steps for city leaders who are concerned about low college completion rates and want to identify and advance solutions.  Local officials can convene leaders from community and technical colleges, public and private universities, school districts, community organizations, workforce boards and chambers of commerce to develop a more coordinated strategy to provide students with the supports and services they need to graduate with a postsecondary credential.

Rural Education At A Glance, 2017 Edition
Published: April 2017
Summary: Education is closely linked with economic outcomes. This report highlights key trends in educational attainment among rural Americans and the relationship between educational attainment and economic prosperity for rural people and places. Rural Americans are increasingly educated, but gains in educational attainment vary across demographic groups. Rural women are increasingly more highly educated than rural men, and educational attainment among rural Whites is higher than that of racial and ethnic minorities in rural areas. Compared with urban areas, rural areas are lagging in the share of adults with college degrees. Urban areas continue to offer employment and earnings advantages (relative to rural areas) for workers with college degrees. For rural counties, low educational attainment is closely related to higher poverty and child poverty rates as well as higher unemployment rates.

Strategies for Promoting Successful Transitions to Adulthood, Higher Education, and the Workforce
Published: November 2017
Summary: This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It explores why the transition to adulthood matters and how it predicts future economic success. It also examines the challenges that young people face and looks at effective and promising strategies that leverage funding and partnerships to support improved outcomes for youth in the Great Lakes region.

The Economic Value of College Majors
Published: May 2015
Summary: When it comes to earnings, choosing a major matters more than getting the degree. And even though some majors lead to low earnings at entry level, we find in this report that work experience improves earnings in any college major. The executive summary highlights how much college graduates earn by major at the entry-level (ages 21-24) and mid-career (ages 25-59), the most popular majors, the majors most likely to lead to a graduate degree, and the majors for which a graduate degree provides the largest benefit.  

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