Education Department Turns Policy Attention to College Completion

Following a flurry of higher-education policy proposals by President Obama, the U.S. Department of Education on Monday hosted a symposium meant to advance the administration's goal of increasing the nation's number of college graduates.

The president has said that he wants the United States to have the highest rate of college completion in the world by 2020. So far, however, the administration has focused more on getting students into college than on helping them finish their degrees, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said to participants at the symposium.

"To this point, we have been working on access," Mr. Duncan said—for example, by increasing the amount of federal Pell Grants for low-income students. "We have not done enough to incent completion," he said.

The symposium featured presentations on research and best practices on how to better prepare incoming students for the rigor of college courses, and how to better support those students through advising and mentoring as they progress through higher education. A list of attendees included about 60 faculty researchers, administrators, and representatives of companies and nonprofit organizations that are working on improving completion rates.

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