Promote Higher Education Attainment with TAP

A good start may be half the battle, according to Plato, but for higher education students half the battle isn’t enough. Access to higher education is a start, but attainment may be the hardest part of the battle for many higher education students. National Student Clearinghouse has estimated that as many as 31 million students have enrolled in college, over the last 20 years, and left without receiving a degree or certificate. Some of these students who dropped out of higher education attended for only one term, others attended multiple terms and multiple institutions. Some have come very close to attainment.

Civitas Learning survey 300,000 students at 53 institutions across the country and found that almost 20 percent of students who drop out of college have 75 percent of the credits they need to complete. About 10 percent have 90 percent or more of the credits they need for attainment. National Student Clearinghouse refers to these students as “potential completers,” Civitas Learning calls them “near completers.” Both phrases name these students in a positive light.

These near or potential completers are an important group in the goal to have more Americans hold a degree and be a leader in the global economy. The national college attainment rate for Americans 25-29 increased from 2000-2016. The percentage with associate’s degree increased from 38 to 46 percent and the percentage with bachelor’s degrees from 29 to 36 percent. Even with these increases the United States has fallen behind other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. In 1990 the US was among the highest ranking in attainment for 25-34 year olds; currently the US ranks 10th. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan frequently said that “some form of postsecondary education would be critical for individuals and the country to succeed in the “global economy.”

Higher education attainment isn’t out of reach for students who have stopped out. Civitas Leaning co-founder acknowledges that a strong start is important for students, and he also says that the end of the journey can be equally important. “Put simply, to significantly improve student success rates, we need to use targeted advising and outreach to ensure that students get a strong finish, as well as a strong start.” A significant part of that outreach for students who are working while they pursue higher education can come from employer tuition assistance plans. Businesses can take a role that complements the role of higher education institutions in supporting students. Support by encouraging students to take the first step toward attainment and enroll is important. It will also yield positive results. More than 89 percent of students who have stopped out report that they have considered reenrolling. Ensuring students make the most of their reenrollment can be an integral part of a comprehensive TAP plan. Counseling as part of TAP can guide students on an education path that will lead to attainment along with career development.

It is important that business value students’ pursuit of education. Adding courses and class work to busy work and personal life schedules can create stress. A business culture that values employee’s education can be very effective. Businesses that make learning a part of their culture and encourage employees will create a structure that helps students persist in the face of obstacles and work to complete their goal. Adult students achieve more when they see how their education is relevant to their job and career. When students have opportunities to apply what they are learning in a work situation, both employees and employer benefit.

Higher education costs are often the biggest barrier to attainment for adult students. An employer TAP is the most efficient and effective solution to this barrier. Adult students face financial responsibilities beyond the cost of education, including responsibilities for children and other dependents. Tuition assistance that covers education costs makes it possible for adults to move ahead with their education while they continue their life responsibilities.

Businesses that provide tuition assistance have opportunities to be active partners with students and schools in building a highly educated and skilled workforce. Tuition assistance programs are central to achieving higher education attainment that will benefit the US at three levels –global, business and individual. Raising the level of education attainment will place the US in a position to be competitive with other countries globally in terms of economic productivity. Businesses that provide tuition assistance have opportunities to be active partners with students and schools in building a highly educated and skilled workforce. Individuals who achieve higher education attainment, with the help of TAP, will be full participants in the economy as both producers and consumers, as well as reach personal development goals.