By on 3.5.19 in Education

On February 20, the myFutureNC Commission announced a statewide attainment goal: by 2030, 2 million North Carolinians age 25-44 will hold a postsecondary degree or nondegree credential. This represents a 67% postsecondary attainment rate for this age group in 2030, a seventeen percentage point increase over the current attainment rate for this age group (50% in 2017).

This goal was set because recent trends in educational attainment are insufficient to meet projected demands for an educated workforce. Additionally, educational attainment is a key factor in social mobility and the capacity to earn a family-supporting wage. Across the state, there are large disparities in attainment by sex, by race/ethnicity, and by geography.

How do we move our state towards this new postsecondary attainment goal? Attainment measures the end outcome of a decades-long educational process. We can think of this process as a pipeline, and this pipeline has leaks.

In collaboration with the John M. Belk Endowment, last Thursday Carolina Demography released a report that maps North Carolina’s public postsecondary education pipeline and identifies our biggest opportunities for improvement. We focus on the public education pipeline—meaning outcomes from K-12 (NC Department of Public Instruction), NC Community Colleges, and the University of North Carolina system. These institutions serve the majority of our state’s students and were able to provide comprehensive data necessary to analyze student outcomes. (In future work, we hope to incorporate data on our state’s independent colleges and universities).

Our work identified four main “leaks”:

  • on-time high school graduation
  • immediate enrollment in a postsecondary institution
  • retention, or staying enrolled in that postsecondary institution
  • on-time graduation from postsecondary

For this study, we followed 9th graders in North Carolina through our state’s public education institutions for ten years. Just 16% of the most recent 9th grade cohort graduated from high school on-time and made an on-time transition to an NC community college or UNC system school and received a degree or credential from that institution. Over the next few weeks, we will explore some of the key findings of this report on the blog and highlight additional, related research.

Next up: What is “postsecondary attainment”?

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