Connecting Research About Access to Higher Education to Practice

The trends are clear—a high school education is no longer adequate to prepare young people for the rapidly changing information economy of the 21st century. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2009), approximately 65 percent of the fastest growing jobs today require at least some form of postsecondary education. If the United States is to remain economically competitive, more students must complete a postsecondary degree. Currently, however, the United States has a smaller percentage of young adults who enter college and graduate with a postsecondary degree than many other developed nations. The possibility that a high school freshman will enroll in college by age 19 has improved modestly in this decade, from 39 percent to 42 percent, and the proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college also has increased slightly. Although the United States has made small gains in the rates of college participation in recent years, the United States also is falling behind in completion rates. Bridging the transition after graduation is a key issue in ensuring that students successfully complete college.

This Connecting Research to Practice Policy Brief outlines the barriers to higher education for students and then provides policymakers and practitioners with research-based policy options, examples of best practice, and resources that can help all students increase their access to higher education.