FSU is engaged with multiple partners – including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AASC&U), and the United Negro College Fund – to achieve two big goals: Increase the number of students completing a four-year degree (or other credential of value) and ensure that graduates are prepared for lifelong success, i.e., career success; responsible citizenship; leadership roles; and well-being (personal, physical, financial, and social).
Why are so many organizations concerned about increasing the number of adults with postsecondary credentials?
The global context of twenty-first century economic, political, and social issues make a college degree essential for the future well-being of both individual citizens and the nation. President Obama expressed this view when, in 2009, he set a goal for the U.S. to be “first in the world” in the percentage of adults with a college degree. The Lumina Foundation’s “big goal” for 2025 is to have 60% of adults with a postsecondary credential, while the Gates Foundation is promoting a one-third increase in the number of degrees/credentials awarded by the year 2022.
Why are so many external partners looking to FSU?
This attention has been prompted by our accomplishments since 2008. Even as undergraduate enrollment decreased by more than nine percent (from 6,068 to 5,506) as a result of increased admissions and progression standards, the number of graduate degrees awarded increased by 25% (774 in 2007-08; 968 in 2015-16).
Our graduates, moreover, are from student populations historically underserved by higher education and whose degree attainment rates must improve if we are to achieve the goals as established by of Gates, Lumina, and President Obama. Of our 968 undergraduate degrees awarded in 2015-16, 54% were earned by African Americans, 8% Hispanic; 56% were Pell eligible (low income), and 74% were adult learners, including community college transfer students and military veterans. Few institutions in the nation can boast such a diverse profile of graduates.
Our challenge for the 2016-17 academic year and beyond is to build on our successes of the past eight years and steadily increase degree attainment by our students. Doing so will require ongoing improvements in recruitment and retention efforts.
Increasing degree attainment by itself, of course, is an empty achievement if these degrees do not prepare graduates for lifelong success.
At FSU, we have a longstanding commitment to providing both a broad liberal arts foundation for all students with in-depth study in a particular discipline. This type of education is essential to preparing graduates for success and well-being in the personal, professional, and social dimension of their lives.
I see no reason to revise our commitment, but our partnerships external agencies provide us the opportunity to build upon past successes in ways that can achieve the goal, as stated in our Strategic Plan for 2015-2020, of becoming a “…national leader in providing high quality academic programs, engaging educational experiences, and responsive support services that enable students from diverse backgrounds, community colleges, and those affiliated with the military to earn degrees and certificates...”