Elevating Student Achievement through College Report Series


Elevating Student Achievement Through College is a three–part series of reports by Michael T. Nettles. The series focuses on college attainment, preparation and achievement in the United States. It presents policy and education contexts, data analyses of the current and projected trends in U.S. higher education degree and credential attainment, and policy recommendations for improving college outcomes and success.

The Reports

Challenges and Opportunities in National Post-Secondary Degree Attainment Goals

The first report in the series, Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving the National Postsecondary Degree Attainment Goals, presents projections of college degree attainment by race and gender up to the year 2060 and compares group progress with the national college attainment goals set by the U.S. government and the Lumina Foundation.

Over the past three decades, the United States has lost its preeminent global position in postsecondary education attainment. Instead of being first in the world of postsecondary degree attainment, the United States is now ranked 14th. To reverse this trend and attempt to regain preeminence, in 2009, at the end of the 12–month Great Recession, the U.S. government and a leading philanthropic organization (Lumina Foundation) established college degree attainment goals for 60 percent of 25– to 34–year–old and 25– to 64–year–old populations, respectively, to have earned a postsecondary degree by the respective years 2020 and 2025.

Achieving these goals would not only return the United States to a respectable global position in degree attainment, but would also signal that the population is prepared for employment in the contemporary workforce. Both degree attainment goals are ambitious for the nation’s population overall, but they are especially challenging for the racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically underserved segments of the U.S. population whose present attainment rates are farther away from the goal.

In this report, Michael T. Nettles, a Senior Vice President at Educational Testing Service, forecasts the attainment rates of men and women of the nation’s five major race/ethnic groups through the year 2060. He concludes that the population overall will achieve the goals, but two and three decades beyond the target years. Among the major population groups, Asian Americans have already exceeded the goals and will remain far above 60 percent. White Americans are projected to achieve the goals a few years beyond the target (seven and 17 years, respectively). African Americans, American Indians and Hispanics as population groups, are not projected to reach the goals by 2060. In addition to forecasting goal attainment rates of the population, Nettles offers analyses and recommends actions to accelerate the pace of goal attainment for the diverse population of the United States.

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Read the executive summary

Confronting College Preparation and Readiness Gaps

The second report (forthcoming), Confronting College Preparation and Readiness Gaps, presents analyses of the correlation of academic, social and financial preparation challenges, illustrates how preparation gaps influence college-going across different demographic population groups, and suggests strategies for narrowing these preparation and readiness gaps.

Gaining Equity in Undergraduate Education

In the third report (forthcoming), Gaining Equity in Undergraduate Education, demographic differences in college achievement (i.e., grades, completion rates and type of degree completed) are analyzed in the context of our national employment and economic development needs. The report calls for action to strengthen policies and practices toward improving college outcomes for underrepresented population groups.

To find more of our research, go to the ETS Policy and Research Reports page.