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July 26, 2010

An Educational Road Map

New guide offers state legislators help in crafting policy to increase number of college graduates.

LOUISVILLE, KY. — What will it take to ensure that 55 percent of Americans hold a post-secondary degree by 2025? The National Conference of State Legislatures and The College Board have joined together to produce a practical policy guide for state legislators to help achieve this goal.

In 2006, NCSL’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education urged state legislators to invest in strategies to improve college completion. In the last few years state legislatures have worked hard to reform state policy and funding to improve higher education productivity. But there is still much work to do. High school completion rates are dropping.

Achievement gaps persist with significant disparities for low-income and minority student. A greater number of students are enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities, but not graduating. And the proportion of adults with postsecondary credentials is not keeping pace with other industrialized nations, potentially threatening our global competitiveness and the economic future of the United States.

In 2007, the College Board formed the Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education to study the educational pipeline and identify solutions to increase the number of students who graduate from college and are prepared to succeed in the 21st century. This commission established 10 recommendations to reach its goal of ensuring that at least 55 percent of Americans hold a postsecondary degree by 2025. State legislators and other policymakers play a large role in advancing each of the recommendations.

The College Board and NCSL have released “The College Completion Agenda:  State Policy Guide.” This guide is written specifically for state legislators and is a road map for increasing the number of Americans who attain a postsecondary degree and gives lawmakers information to use to be an positive and active force in their state.

“When it comes to designing effective education reform, state legislators are the most important of all state policymakers,” said William T. Pound, NCSL’s executive director. “ Education is the single largest expenditure in state budgets and state legislators are constantly focused on improving education across the entire K-16 education spectrum.”

“To improve our college completion rates, we must think ‘P–16’ and improve education from preschool through higher education. The U.S. must commit to making college completion a national priority, or lose our status as the world’s preeminent source for ideas, innovation and industry,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. “If we are serious about creating the jobs of tomorrow and, just as important, the workforce able to fill them, we have to make sure our students of today are the most advanced and highly educated in the world.”

The “State Policy Guide” has been organized around the recommendations of the College Board’s Commission. Each chapter was developed and written collaboratively by a policy expert from each organization. The authors actively consulted with specialists from the education community and a legislative advisory group of eight experienced state legislators and staff who have given ongoing guidance to this effort. Each chapter includes:

  • Brief background information on the topic.
  • A list of questions that state legislators need to ask about conditions in their own states.
  • An overview of current and relevant research.
  • Specific strategies for dealing with the problems.
  • The cost implications of the policy strategies (including low, medium and high-cost options).
  • Examples of policies that are currently being implemented in the states.
  • Short , medium and long-term action steps state legislators can take.

The “College Completion Agenda:  State Policy Guide” is available to legislators, staff and members of the media on NCSL’s website. For more information, please contact NCSL communications division.

Authors of the report will be available for interview from NCSL's Legislative Summit in Louisville, Ky., on Monday, July 26 from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. To schedule a time during this availability, please call the NCSL press room at 502-815-6870.

The College Board Advocacy and Policy Center launched a new website that combines the data with the policy strategies from the report, and presents the information in a way that can be easily accessed and customized by state.


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.

The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center was established to help transform education in America. Guided by the College Board’s principles of excellence and equity in education, the Center works to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to succeed in college and beyond. Critical connections between policy, research and real-world practice are made to develop innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges in education today. Drawing from the experience of the College Board’s active membership, consisting of education professionals from more than 5,700 institutions, priorities include: College Preparation & Access, College Affordability & Financial Aid, and College Admission & Completion. Please visit us on the web to learn more about the Center.