In today’s increasingly competitive global economy, graduating from high school is more critical than ever to securing a good job and a promising future. Since an estimated 85 percent of current jobs and almost 90 percent of the fastest-growing and best-paying jobs require some postsecondary education, a high school diploma and the skills to succeed in college and the workplace are essential. There is a national interest in ensuring that all students have the academic preparation, easy transition, and financial tools necessary for success in postsecondary education.
To support that goal, federal policy should provide incentives to states to make a college preparatory curriculum the default curriculum for all students and provide data on student access to and success in such courses. Students and families need clear information about how their schools are performing, what their choices are for the future, and what the requirements are to take advantage of those choices. To that end, federal policy should require states to report college enrollment, persistence, and graduation data for each high school, so that families know whether schools are successful in preparing students for higher education. Given the billions of federal dollars spent on unaligned K–12 and higher education systems, federal policy should require states to form P–16 councils to coordinate and promote clear alignment between the standards for high school learning and the expectations of higher education.
Federal policy should support students and their families throughout the transition from high school to college, including preparation and planning. Federal policy should provide incentives for the development of personal graduation plans in low-performing schools to ensure that students and families have the tools and information necessary to plan for high school graduation and success in college or other postsecondary education or training. This includes supporting programs that provide at-risk students with access to information about college and help them to prepare for it; and requiring federally supported postsecondary institutions to provide clear, accessible information about their requirements for admission and for placement into credit-bearing courses to help parents and students understand and plan for college.
Federal policy should make college more affordable. To help lower financial barriers that keep students from going to and completing college, the federal government must increase financial aid, make student loans more affordable, and support policies that lower college costs.
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