This post was written by Dan Greenstein, director, Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a partner of Black Enterprise. It originally appeared on the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists website.
Education after high school has become part of the American Dream. Unfortunately, the odds are against many students striving to realize that dream. From financial burdens to a lack of clear information on the cost of college and the return on their investment, students face a number of hurdles on their way to earning degrees or credentials. Although we as a nation have made strides to eliminate some of these obstacles, more than 40% of students who start college don’t graduate.
Without enough college graduates, jobs go unfilled and our economy suffers. The United States needs more people earning certificates and degrees for the country to remain economically competitive. By 2025, two-thirds of all jobs in the U.S. will require education beyond high school. At the current rate the nation is producing college graduates, there will be an estimated shortfall of 11 million workers with postsecondary credentials to fill those jobs.
How do we get more students to and through college? We can make higher education more personalized, flexible, and affordable through innovative technologies and interventions that better support students. In early June, Bill Gates highlighted some promising solutions by pioneering higher education leaders, such as City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, and the inspiring students who are thriving under these institutional transformations.
But these brave and innovative changes at colleges and universities still can’t address one of the largest barriers to college access and completion: the current process of applying for federal financial aid.
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