Wendy Lewis went from military service to school and seemed to be lacking one key to success in life outside the Army—structure. Lewis recently participated on a student panel during a Council of State Governments Policy Academy, “Veterans Initiatives: Increasing Educational Attainment.” The goal of the five panels, according to Marshall Thomas, director of Veterans Affairs Services at California State Long Beach and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was to discuss how to go beyond simply saying “thank you for your service,” and how to best help veterans achieve educational success.

College and university freshmen aren't what they once used to be, and state policymakers need to look at ways to adapt to that changing reality. "Yesterday's nontraditional student really is today's traditional student," said Marcie Foster, policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a national nonprofit that advocates for policies that improve the lives of low-income people. Foster was one of the featured speakers in a recent CSG webinar, "Overcoming Social Barriers to Postsecondary Education."

The longer a student takes to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree, the more it costs both the student and taxpayers. Fewer than half of all students entering four-year universities in 2003 and 2004 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 48 months or less. The Center for College Affordability and Reliability reports the public sector would save $7.5 billion each year if all students graduated on time.

In order to see robust economic growth in the states, postsecondary degree attainment must increase to produce skilled employees for the workforce.  The need for higher-skilled employees is increasing, yet the United States is not producing enough workers with a college degree to meet the growing demand.  Each year until 2025, 800,000 more college students must complete their degrees to meet the needs of the workforce.  Policymakers and education officials can assist college-goers as they seek high-quality degrees and credentials.  Additionally, policies can be enacted to help institutions increase capacity to serve more students and increase system productivity.

Educators and policymakers realize that all of America’s students need a high-quality education to prepare them for college and careers. 2012 promises to be another busy year in  transformational strategies in education. In order to ensure a world-class education, leaders will likely address these top five issues facing states and territories (“the states”) this year.

Early college high schools enable high school students to earn college credit while still enrolled in high school. These programs provide visionary new pathways to postsecondary education, particularly for underrepresented populations.

Only one-third of students leave high school minimally prepared for college. Consequently, developmental education courses are an important component of student retention efforts. This brief addresses policy implications of retention programs.