New Postsecondary Attainment Data Shows Slow and Steady Upward Progress, But We Can Do Better

In its A Stronger Nation 2016 report, the Lumina Foundation sheds light on its most recent attainment findings, and while they don’t quite meet the organization’s Goal 2025 to ensure that 60 percent of Americans hold a degree, certificate or other high-quality postsecondary credential, slow and steady progress is indeed being made.

The report dissects the “working-age population” including those ages 25–64, or whom we refer to as the post-traditional learner. Lumina reports the following based on its most recent available data from 2014:

  • 40.4 percent have at least a two-year degree—a slight increase over the previous year’s rate of 40 percent
  • 4.9 percent of Americans hold a high-quality postsecondary certificate as their highest credential
  • The nation’s overall postsecondary attainment rate is 45.3 percent

While the attainment rates are heading in the right direction, there is still a significant amount of work to be done. I’ve seen firsthand the limited institutional resources dedicated to student retention, which makes it difficult to effectively scale successful intervention strategies that make a meaningful impact on student completion. And merely throwing technology at the issue isn’t enough to make a critical difference.

With less than half of our nation’s adult population still without a degree in hand, we as an industry can do better in supporting our post-traditional learners. By providing scalable strategies that motivate students to persist and complete their credentials, we can help make Goal 2025 a reality.

Download our recent quick guide, Predictive Student Retention: The Power of Data + Coaching, to learn more about best-practice retention technology and proactive coaching interventions that can help you graduate every student you worked so hard to enroll.


Sarah Horn

As the VP of Retention at Helix Education, Sarah brings unique insight into student retention from more than a decade of experience in higher education, nearly all in operations. She has designed, scaled and managed a success coaching program for an online Associate's Degree, and has a tremendous amount of experience aligning and implementing relevant, practical retention strategies that drive results. Previously, she worked for Inside Track as Campus Director, implementing large-scale partnership. Sarah is a graduate of The University of Rochester and earned her Master's degree at John F. Kennedy University.