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What we stand for: College Readiness

Improving College Access and Success

A White Paper by Robert Rothman for Stand for Children Leadership Center

Improving student access to, and success in, higher education has become a high priority in education policy. President Obama has set as a goal that the United States will be first in the world in college completion by 2020. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation have set similar goals for raising the college-graduation rate, and have launched initiatives to try to reach them. And policy makers at the federal, state, and district levels have put in place plans aimed at ensuring that more students enter and complete college.

These efforts stem from the recognition that a high-school diploma is no longer enough in a complex, global economy. Not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree, but in today’s economy, young people need education beyond high school, including two-year degrees or industry credentials, in order to compete for well-paying jobs. Yet the U.S. college-attendance rate has stalled, while other countries have increasingly sent more and more young people on to higher education.

This paper examines efforts under way to improve college enrollment and completion. Specifically, it considers programs to:

  • align high school graduation and college entrance requirements
  • expand access to college-preparatory curricula and coursework that prepare students  to succeed in college
  • develop and strengthen counseling and other supports to ensure that students are on track for graduation and college readiness
  • improve access to college for low-income students

Many efforts are new or just getting started, and there is little data on whether they are effective in raising the college going and college completion rates. Moreover, they do not address the steps that higher-education institutions can take to improve graduation rates; a study by the Education Trust has shown that some institutions are much more successful than others in retaining low-income and minority students through graduation.  But a rising number of promising initiatives offer models for some steps that districts, states, and the federal government can take to address this increasingly prominent concern.

The rest of this paper is available as a PDF download:


Robert Rothman is a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education.

About Stand for Children Leadership Center

Stand for Children Leadership Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides leadership development and training to everyday citizens. Our mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, college and career training. To make that happen, we:

  • Educate and empower parents, teachers, and community members to demand excellent public schools.
  • Advocate for effective local, state and national education policies and investments.

  • Ensure the policies and funding we advocate for reach classrooms and help students.

Why Stand?

A message from Stand Leadership Center board member John Legend.

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