College completion remains one of higher education's biggest challenges--and one that must be solved

Arne Duncan: College completion–not simply access–critical to nation’s future


College completion remains one of higher education's biggest challenges--and one that must be solved

Making higher education the norm for everyone in the nation—and ensuring that people have not just access to higher education, but also the support to complete that education—is paramount to the nation’s future success, said Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

Duncan, who is a distinguished senior fellow at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, sat down during an EDUCAUSE 2022 session and discussed some of the biggest challenges higher education is facing—and college access and completion dominated the conversation.

Questions came from Michael Berman, retired CIO, California State University, Office of the Registrar; Brian Baute, industry principal for education with RingCentral; and Jessie Minton, vice chancellor for technology and CIO of Washington University in St. Louis.

“We’ve seen tremendous innovation and adaptation over the past couple of years. How do we [create] the chance to not just go to college, but graduate, for folks across the country the norm?” Duncan said. “The truth is that less than half the nation has a college degree. If we’re going to close the gap between the haves and have-nots, the challenge for all of us is how we start to education exponentially more young people. It’s not about access, but completion.”

Education is traditionally slow to change, often trying to do more in the same manner. Instead of transformation, it’s incremental progress. So how can higher ed move the needle forward? Part of the answer is found in new learning modalities and extending learning opportunities to students who don’t have the luxury of moving to a school and living there while they earn a degree.

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Laura Ascione

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