Why Higher Ed?

Learn The Facts

More critical now than ever before.

Too many students leave our higher education system without a degree, feeling ill-prepared for the workforce, and with a low-earning capacity that will not allow them to pay back their debt. This results in both an adverse impact on individual students and our economy as a whole.

Members of Congress must figure out how to not just make college more affordable, but also more valuable for all students and taxpayers making an investment in higher education today.

As Congress considers a long overdue reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, this resource page pulls together findings from independent experts to help elected officials understand approaches to measuring value when it comes to higher education.

Getting a postsecondary credential or degree is more important than ever.

FACT: College graduates face lower unemployment, earn more, pay more in taxes, are healthier, and are more civically engaged.
FACT: Students who graduate from college earn more than $1 million dollars more than those with just a high school diploma (or equivalent) over the course of their lifetimes.

How do we make this a possibility - higher wages, better health, and participation in civic society - more accessible?

Students today have unequal access to quality higher education and institutional behavior needs to better address systemic issues.

FACT: Fewer than 15% of low-income students get a four-year degree, while more than 6 in 10 wealthy students do.
FACT: Our higher education system is failing students of color. The default rate for a black bachelor’s degree holder is 21%, while the default rate for a white college dropout is 18%.

College should be a ladder out of poverty, but the system is failing lower-income students. How do we close this gap of opportunity?

Students today have unequal access to quality higher education and institutional behavior needs to better address systemic issues.


There is a leaky pipeline in higher education.

FACT: Only half of all students who enter postsecondary education earn a degree.

How can we better support students with the resources they need once they’ve made it into college?

There is limited data to support smart decisions about the value of higher education.

FACT: Students have incomplete information when making one of the most important and expensive decisions of their lives. Only 47% of students are counted in federal graduation rates and roughly one-third of postsecondary graduates are left out of data on post-college earnings.

Do you believe we need better data in higher ed? What do you think we can do about it?

The higher education landscape is changing.

FACT: Today’s college students are more diverse than any previous generation - 37% of students are 25 or older, 22% are parents, and 64% work while attending school.
FACT: The Pell Grant used to cover 80% of college costs at a public four-year college, but today, covers less than a third.

How can we improve our higher education system to meet the needs of all students?

To learn more please contact:

Tamara Hiler
Third Way
Clare McCann
New America
Emily Bouck
Higher Learning Advocates
Carrie Warick
National College Access Network
Ben Miller
Center for American Progress
Mamie Voight
The Institute for Higher Education Policy
Deborah Santiago
Excelencia in Education
Reid Setzer
Young Invincibles