As a nation, we’re facing an increasing demand for highly skilled workers. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020 65% of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education. To meet this growing demand there has been a push to improve America’s college completion rates. Recognizing that there are many different ways in which postsecondary learning can take place, we have highlighted five strategies that can create stronger incentives for students to earn their degrees, regardless of when and how their learning is acquired.
Most colleges and universities offer a wide array of programs. With so many choices available and without a clear roadmap, students end up confused and frustrated, taking unnecessary courses and wasting time on excess credits. On average, bachelor degree graduates in the United States earn 12 credits that don’t count toward their majors. 1
Providing students with prescribed pathways will deliver structured programs of study that can be followed through to degree completion. Students gain a clear path, semester by semester, to graduation. They are guided through their course selections, accelerating their progress and shortening the time it takes to earn their degree.
 ”Guided Pathways to Success” Complete College America, Winter 2012.
Not all college students follow the traditional path of entering and graduating from a single institution. Roughly one-third of students nationwide transfer at least once before earning a degree.2 Students often become frustrated by the complexity of the transfer process and the difficulty of getting accurate information. Many encounter setbacks because of lost credit and increased financial burden. On average, transfer students lose 13 credits – an entire semester’s worth of work. 3
Providing students with prescribed transfer pathways takes the guesswork out of transfer with step-by-step academic roadmaps. Clearly, articulated program pathways gives students access to the information they need to evaluate and navigate a transfer, making informed choices and avoiding courses that won’t count toward their chosen degree. Seamless transfers encourage students to persist and graduate on time.
 ”Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions,” National Student Clearinghouse, February 2012.
 ”Transferability of Postsecondary Credit Following Student Transfer or Coenrollment” National Center for Education Statistics, August 2014.
About 64% of community college students transfer to four-year universities without first getting an associate’s degree. While many transfer students will go on to complete their bachelor’s degree, about 26% will drop out leaving them without a degree. 4 Oftentimes, these students have completed more than enough credits to have earned an associate’s degree, but end up with nothing to show for it.
Through Reverse Transfer these students are afforded the opportunity to gain the associate’s degree they have earned, providing them a valuable credential in the workforce, while also motivating further efforts towards a bachelor’s degree.
 ”Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions” National Student Clearinghouse, August 2013.
Many students looking to obtain a degree have college level knowledge that they have acquired through work and life experiences. It is estimated that 65% of postsecondary learning occurs outside of the traditional academic environment through on-the job training, military training, apprenticeships and a variety of other programs. 5
Providing students with opportunities to earn credit for their skills and knowledge not only encourages them to enroll and pursue their degree, but it shortens their time to degree completion.
 ”Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2010.
Dual enrollment is an arrangement in which high school students enroll in college courses and earn college credit prior to graduation. It is estimated that 82% of high schools have students enrolled in dual enrollment courses. 6
Providing high school students with the opportunity to access college coursework can prepare them for what will be expected from them in college. With dual enrollment credits already earned, students are more motivated to enter college and are set on a path to completing a postsecondary degree in less time.
 ”Dual Credit and Exam-Based Courses in U.S. Public High Schools: 2010-11” National Center for Education Statistics, February 2013.
The push to advance degree completion is driven by the need for more people to obtain postsecondary skills and knowledge. However, the traditional pathway for acquiring postsecondary skills and knowledge is no longer the only option. These five strategies can help support non-traditional pathways and boost the number of college graduates, ensuring a positive future for our nation.
AcademyOne’s solutions can help states and institutions lead their efforts to advancing college completion and providing students with the support they need to be successful. Our Transfer and Articulation solutions help facilitate academic credit portability, while guiding students through the transfer process and providing them with the information they need when they need it. Our Reverse Transfer solution helps automate and optimize reverse transfer policies and processes, awarding students college credit when it’s due. Our Prior Learning Assessment solution expands opportunities for students to earn credit for life and work experiences, reducing time to degree completion and increasing student access and success. To learn more about the work we do and our solutions, check out our state and institutional client success stories.
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AcademyOne is a consulting and software development firm working in the higher education sphere. We deliver industry-leading solutions to states and institutions who wish to improve student retention and degree completion rates, especially among the growing population of nontraditional learners.