FSU and the Challenges Facing US Higher Education

The Inside Higher Ed article below considers the future of U.S. higher education – specifically the goal of increasing degree completion – in the wake of the 2016 election.


The article suggests that the focus on the “completion agenda” is likely to continue, but the value of postsecondary credentials will increasingly be defined by the employment rates and salaries of graduates.

Fayetteville State University is already engaged in addressing both of these trends.

The “Completion Agenda” recognizes that the skills and knowledge essential for success as a nation and as individuals in the 21st century require postsecondary education.  Hence, enabling more adults to earn degrees – especially historically underserved populations — is an imperative for higher education.

In 2009, President Obama set the goal for the US to be “first in the world” in terms of the percentage of adults with a college degree by 2020.

The Lumina Foundation has set the “big goal” of having 60% of adults in the US with a postsecondary credential by 2025.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested significantly in efforts to increase degree attainment. They have established the “Frontier Set,” a group of institutions working together to “…drive institutional transformation and close the opportunity gap for every student.”

Frontier Set institutions have agreed to increase the number of credentials and degrees awarded by one-third by 2022 and share their practices and strategies to promote change in higher education.

FSU is a member of the Frontier Set. Our selection is a result of our success in enabling students from diverse populations to earn degrees.  Our target is to award 1,270 undergraduate degrees (or credentials) in 2022, compared to the 968 we awarded in 2015-16.

The completion agenda has become an important component of the higher education landscape. Yet, many legislators, policy makers, and educators – driven by concerns about soaring debt and unemployment among college graduates — have challenged the completion agenda, arguing for a higher education agenda of doing a better job of preparing graduates for high-paying careers.

Post-graduation outcomes have already become an important focus of higher education. This emphasis is likely to continue.

Certainly, there can be little benefit of earning a degree that does not lead to a meaningful career and lifelong success.

Thanks to the United Negro College Fund Career Pathways Initiative (UNCF CPI), FSU will have $1.5 million over the next five years to revise our curricular and co-curricular programs to help improve our graduates’ career preparation. This grant will inform much of our work in the coming years.

As a partner with the Gates Foundation and UNCF, we are committed to increasing degree attainment and making sure that our graduates are well prepared for career success.

As one of the few institutions in the nation participating in both the Frontier Set and UNCF CPI, we are in a unique position to set an example for other higher education institutions as they grapple with challenges confronting us all.

If we are successful, the impact of our efforts could extend well beyond our campus and our graduates.