Letters and Opinion and Lumina Foundation and Graduation Rates

Need quality, quantity in higher ed

April 10, 2010

In his [March 29] column, “Set sights on education, not graduation,” Morton Marcus raises a vital point about Indiana’s higher education reform efforts—but he overlooks a larger one.

He’s quite right in urging officials and educators not to be so focused on improving college-completion rates that they ignore—or even reduce—standards for learning. Yes, more Hoosiers need degrees and certificates if the state hopes to thrive in the global economy, but those credentials must be meaningful. They can’t be mere “pieces of paper,” as Marcus calls them. Rather, a college credential must signify genuine learning; it must clearly demonstrate what a student knows, understands and is able to do upon graduation.

The organizations working together to improve Indiana’s college-completion rates understand that. We at Lumina Foundation certainly do. That’s why the “Big Goal” that we adopted nearly two years ago includes a quality-assurance statement. Specifically, that goal calls for 60 percent of Americans to hold high-quality degrees or credentials by 2025. And for us, “high-quality” means measurable learning in programs that are rigorous and relevant.

Still, and this is the larger point that mustn’t be overlooked: The learning alone is not enough—any more than a degree is enough—to ensure success for individual Hoosiers or the state as a whole.

Learning represents the value of a college education, but a credential is the currency. No one succeeds without both.
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Jamie Merisotis
President and CEO
Lumina Foundation for Education

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