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For the better part of the past century, America has enjoyed the reputation of having the best higher education system in the world—a system that has produced the highest proportion of college-educated citizens. Through a consistent focus on student access, our institutions have provided millions of Americans the opportunity to attend college. Unfortunately, far too few students are completing their education and not receiving a degree or certificate. The result is that nearly one dozen nations have passed us by in college completion, making our economy increasingly vulnerable to international competition.

In the knowledge-based economy of today, approximately two-thirds of all jobs will require a quality higher education credential or degree. For nearly all Americans, the new path to the middle class runs through college; however, our public institutions are not producing enough college graduates to meet workforce needs. This is detrimental to individuals and states, as college-educated workers earn higher wages, have greater career mobility, and contribute substantially to economic growth.

States have led the charge to reform K-12 education, and the time has come for governors, higher education executive officers, and campus leaders to work together to make marked improvements in college completion and productivity. Complete to Compete enlists the help of all governors to make our nation a global leader in college completion.

As states face the worst economic crisis in modern history, we must collaborate to develop common performance measurements and take concrete steps to increase completion rates within our available resources. From transforming first-year coursework to implementing performance funding, it is up to states and institutions to create policies that can improve degree attainment and more efficiently use the dollars invested by states and students.

A number of states, including my home state of Washington, have taken action to increase college completion of our two- and four-year institutions within the constraints of the current economic climate. Complete to Compete will draw on these and other efforts to benefit every state and our nation.

I believe we can—and must—improve higher education performance and identify promising state policies as a first step to retaining excellence and regaining access in higher education. Together, we can work to increase the number of college graduates and, ultimately, increase our nation’s ability to compete internationally.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, Washington
National Governors Association Chair, 2010-2011


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Common College Completion Metrics

Comparable, reliable metrics are essential for states under current fiscal constraints. Information on the progress toward, and degree completion of, all students in higher education allows state leaders to gauge whether policies are successful and helps inform future funding decisions. NGA convened a Work Group on Common College Completion Metrics to make recommendations on the common higher education measures that states should collect and report publicly. The recommended completion metrics are found here.