Rising tuition prices and student debt loads have come to dominate the debate over the future of higher education in the United States–but the risk to college opportunity goes well beyond that, according to a new report.
The report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) finds that in order to understand the obstacles to making college accessible and affordable, leaders must consider, but look beyond, college sticker price and state appropriations.
The College Opportunity Risk Assessment is a state-by-state analytic tool to compare the many intersecting risks to postsecondary educational opportunity, such as how a state prepares its high school students, how it engages non-traditional college students, how it supports minority students, and the state’s fiscal health and stability.
The assessment includes a risk ranking for all 50 states, and an examination of where each state is most at risk. Researcher Joni Finney, professor of practice at Penn GSE and the director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education, discovered a number of findings:
1. Every state has a long way to go to have enough adult workers with college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications, or other high-quality college credentials to meet the economic and civic challenges of the 21st century. Many states cannot reach the demand for more credentialed and degreed workers by focusing only on young people. Even Washington state, which is least at risk in these rankings, is projected to fall more than a quarter million credentials shy of expected need by 2025.