Lumina's Report Encourages Continued Focus on Adult Learners

by Denise Deutschlander      
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
Lumina Foundation recently released the fourth annual edition of A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, describing higher education attainment in the United States. Lumina’s goal for higher education, referred to as Goal 2025, strives to increase the proportion of Americans who hold a postsecondary degree or postsecondary certificate of value to 60 percent by the year 2025. According to these most recent projections, the country is not going to reach Goal 2025 unless there is significant progress in increasing the rate at which postsecondary systems produce degrees and  certificates.
This finding underscores the importance of finding effective ways to reach and reengage adults with significant prior college credit and provide effective pathways for them to return to complete postsecondary credentials. 
As the chart demonstrates, higher education attainment is increasing, but not at the rate necessary to meet Goal 2025, which is tied to the recognition of a national economic need for an educated workforce, and explicitly acknowledges the important role adult learners play in the national level of educational attainment.
To accelerate progress toward Goal 2025, Lumina focuses on four main objectives related to adult education, calling for the first three to be achieved by 2016. They include encouraging both first-time enrollment of adult learners, degree completion by returning students, and recognition of prior learning. The objectives are to:
  • Increase the first-time participation rates of older adults to 1.3 percent.
  • Reduce the number of working-age adults (25-64 years old) with some college and no degree by 800,000.
  • Increase the higher education completion rate for adult learners (ages 25-64) to 48 percent.
  • Increase the number of students receiving credit based on assessment of prior learning to 40 percent (from a current rate of 24 percent).
The final objective is a new indicator Lumina hopes to incorporate into its plan by 2016.
The report also points out that the recent recession has only made a stronger case for postsecondary degree attainment, as those with a high school degree or less suffered disproportionate job losses. Additionally, one-third of employers claim in a recent survey that their central difficulty in filling jobs is a lack of appropriate technical competencies or hard skills. This is especially salient for low-skill adults whose jobs disappeared during the Great Recession, and who are currently looking for work in a changed job market.  

Projections by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce also show that the nation is facing a degree gap between our expected national attainment levels and the number of degree holders needed by the workforce — further underscoring the need to increase attainment rates. 


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