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 We will add new items as they are released and remove as they become outdated.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." 

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
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.

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. 

College Board - Five Ways Ed Pays Campaign
Published: February 2012
Summary: 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.

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.

Reaching for Opportunity: An Action Plan to Increase Michigan's Postsecondary Credential Attainment
Published: December 1, 2015
ReportCoverSummary: The report outlines a goal of reaching 60 percent of Michiganders with education and training beyond high school by 2025. Leaders from business and education came together last year as the Postsecondary Credential Attainment Workgroup to develop a new action plan for how Michigan can achieve the necessary education and training beyond high school. The report outlines the challenges and opportunities along with recommendations for strategic actions and policies to increase credential attainment, essential to raise incomes, create new jobs, and grow Michigan's economy. 

Learn more: 

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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