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Policy Alert and
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Frequently Asked Questions


Key Issue
States that adopt effective education policies can increase the success rates of students at four key transition points spanning the period from high school to completion of a college degree. Developing such policies is a state's primary tool for gaining high numbers of knowledgeable, skilled workers in its workforce.

Primary Findings
  • More and more, states are moving toward adopting education policies that increase the number of students successfully progressing from ninth grade through high school graduation to a four-year degree.
  • Increasing the number of college graduates is more than an educational issue; it is also a key social issue. Residents holding college degrees are the basis of a state's "educational capital."
  • High levels of educational capital are the foundation of a state's economic development and the preferred quality of life for its residents.
    Main Conclusions
  • The success rate of the "educational pipeline" varies radically from state to state. This indicates that educational policies matter.
  • Studies show a range of policies used in combination has the greatest impact.

    The Educational Pipeline:
    Big Investment, Big Returns

    Many states are now focusing on improving their "K-16" policies-those local and statewide policies that seek to bolster student success at key transitions from high school into college, and from college admission to completion of a degree. This new trend derives from efforts to create a stronger "educational pipeline," a productive, integrated system of high schools, colleges and universities within the state.

    The educational pipeline is being viewed as the key avenue to increasing a state's "educational capital." This is the number of highly knowledgeable, skilled people in a state's workforce.

    Educational capital has a direct impact on a state's economy and quality of life. With this increased awareness, supported by publications such as Measuring Up (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education 2000, 2002), state leaders are renewing their interest in helping students gain college degrees.


    Encouraging a college-educated population in the workforce results in pivotal benefits to the state:
  • Individuals with higher degrees can expect to earn higher incomes. The result: more tax revenue and economic activity for the state.
  • An educated, skilled population makes fewer demands on social services such as welfare and corrections. The result: less expense to the state.
  • People with more education make more informed health and lifestyle choices. The result: state savings in public resources.
  • Educated individuals are more comfortable handling decisions about health care, personal finance, and retirement. The result: less government responsibility in those areas.


    State policymakers can use three primary methods to increase educational capital:
  • Create a high-quality K-16 system for bringing students to a college degree. This is the most direct and reliable way of increasing educational capital.
  • Develop and maintain an economy to employ the state's educated residents.
  • Attract educated workers from outside the state by creating an appealing state economy and quality of life.


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