Postsecondary Attainment Goal

Set a statewide goal for postsecondary attainment. If set at an ambitious level and adopted with the buy-in of business and civic leaders, K-12 and postsecondary practitioners, and policymakers, an attainment goal can galvanize collective action and provide a major benchmark for success.

Recommendation 1

Postsecondary Attainment Goal

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States need to know more about what types of credentials students are earning in order to assess how well those credentials align to employers’ skill needs and how well suited they are for in-demand careers that pay family-supporting wages. In addition, states need to know who is more likely to attain credentials and who is less likely to do so. We call for states to collect and track data on attainment by types of credentials (e.g., degrees, certificates, and certifications) and categories of learners (e.g., socioeconomic status, race, gender, age cluster, prior college experience, and enrollment intensity, among other potential measures). Moreover, states should adopt and invest in strategies to close specific gaps in attainment among these populations and credential types.


Setting a statewide goal for postsecondary credential attainment is an essential precondition for making postsecondary education work for students and the economy. Yet although it’s a step in the right direction, an overarching goal, in and of itself, is not enough. It does not provide enough information or offer enough direction on how to reach the desired attainment rate, nor does it illuminate the kinds of postsecondary credentials that are of most value in the labor market.