Our Work

GOAL 2025

Lumina Foundation is committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina’s outcomes-based approach focuses on helping to design and build an equitable, accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action to achieve Goal 2025.


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Goal 2025

60% by 2025

In 2009, Lumina Foundation released its first strategic plan, based on the goal that 60% of Americans obtain a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2025—a goal we now call Goal 2025. Much has changed even in the short time since that plan was written, both in the external environment and in what we have learned from our work. This strategic plan—intended to guide our work for the next four years from 2013 through 2016—reflects those changes:

  • Throughout the nation, there is a much broader and deeper understanding of the need to increase postsecondary attainment. Some version of Goal 2025 has been adopted by or is a major influence on the federal government, a majority of states, national higher education associations, many individual colleges and universities, and communities around the U.S. including several large metropolitan regions. At the same time, however, the resources available to support new initiatives to increase attainment in traditional ways are severely constrained.
  • We have learned much about the challenges in increasing attainment, as well as promising approaches for doing so. We know the factors that influence student success in postsecondary education and how more students could receive the support they need to succeed. We have learned how to help higher education institutions and systems become more productive to serve more students. We have learned the necessity of assuring the quality of degrees and other credentials in terms of student learning and how this might be done. We have also learned a great deal about influencing public policy at the state and federal levels and mobilizing higher education institutions, communities, and regions to increase attainment.

Between 2009 and 2025 lie 16 years. Our first strategic plan covered the first quarter—the first four years—and this strategic plan will take us halfway to 2025. We have set the stage for reaching the goal, but we believe over the next four years we must do two things: develop a clear understanding of what we must do to create a system of higher education that can reach much higher levels of attainment, and make real progress toward the 60% goal.


American Attainment Lags Behind Other Countries

When America first reached a higher education attainment rate of 40% for young adults back in the 1970s, it represented the great success of our nation’s efforts to educate the baby boomers. Unfortunately, we stopped at 40 percent while other countries first caught up and then pushed beyond. Today, several countries, including Korea and Canada, award college-level degrees to more than 50 percent of their young people. Plus, their pace of increasing attainment shows no signs of slowing down.

Despite recent positive momentum in America, international comparative data produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows the U.S. is still lagging behind its global competitors. America now ranks a disappointing 11th in global postsecondary attainment, but the pace of attainment among younger adults is even more troubling. According to the OECD data, an astounding 64 percent of young adults (ages 25-34) in South Korea have completed education beyond high school. Those rates in Japan and Canada are approaching 60 percent, while young adults in the U.S. are hovering just above 40 percent.

Recent data shows Americans are concerned about the country’s low attainment rates and they are ready for leaders to do something about it. The latest Gallup/Lumina poll found that 90 percent of Americans believe it’s important to increase the rate of college attainment in America. And 89 percent of Americans report that higher education institutions need to change to better serve the needs of today’s students.



Today’s employers want to hire graduates with a broad array of knowledge and skills—not just specific content knowledge, but transferable skills like critical thinking, the ability to solve unscripted problems, and to communicate effectively,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO. “Higher education and employers must work together to prepare students for real-world success.

Perhaps the clearest evidence of the need to increase higher education attainment comes from the fact that employers cannot find people with the skills they need to fill all of their current job openings, much less those that will be created in the future. In a recent survey, a third of employers cited “lack of technical competencies/hard skills” as their main difficulty in filling jobs — up from just 22 percent in 2011.6 For example, in the manufacturing sector, where advanced manufacturing techniques are dramatically increasing the demand for postsecondary skills, fully two-thirds of manufacturers reported “moderate to severe” shortages of qualified workers in 2011.7 The same issue is a growing problem in the healthcare industry.

What happens when employers can’t find people with the skills and credentials they need? The answer is that the economy as a whole suffers. Available evidence suggests that our nation’s inability to match jobs to people with the right skills is a major factor in explaining why employment rates have not improved as quickly as they should have in the economic recovery.


The overwhelming consensus among employers is that too many graduates lack vital skills required for today’s jobs. So how can business align with higher education to prepare today's students for tomorrow's workforce?


Troubling disparities in educational attainment aren’t new; they’ve endured for decades—and we ignore them at our peril. Consider the nation’s Latino population. The median age for Hispanics in this country is 27; for everyone else, it’s nearly 40. That means our nation’s schools are already serving a disproportionately large population of Latino students. And, since Latinos represent the fastest-growing segment of the national population, these numbers are sure to increase.

A well‐educated citizenry is the foundation of social equity, cohesion and successful participation in the global knowledge economy. Preamble  of  the  IAU  2008  Policy  Statement  on  higher education access and success

The  current massive inequities we see threaten global economic development and political stability, not to mention literally the lives of billions of people across the globe.  That's why Lumina's  mission to enroll and graduate  more  students  from  college is especially focused on the growing  numbers  of  what  we  call  21st  century students:  adult  learners  without  a  college  degree  coming  back  to  college,  low  income  students, students  of  color  and  first  generation students.  Lumina recognizes that, to make effective change in higher education, equity and excellence must be at the center of all of our efforts.


For thinkers and problem solvers: lend your innovative ideas to our evolving higher education system in Lumina's Open Innovation Pavilion at InnoCentive

For institutional leaders: learn from the “national playbook” being developed by the newly-formed University Innovation Alliance of 11 top public research universities focused on helping 21st century students earn college degrees.

For policymakers, read Lumina's policy priorities that will increase attainment among our most vulnerable demographics.

See more ideas about what you can do to help.

More About Lumina Foundation

Our Mission and How to Get Involved

What You Can Do

Every American has a role in helping us reach Goal 2025, and we all benefit when we get there. Everyone–from employers to instructors to families–has clear steps to take. And no matter how small, each step toward the goal is essential. Find out how you can contribute to building a stronger nation through higher education.

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What Needs to be Redesigned

Lumina's priority is to fundamentally rethink how higher education is delivered, and what outcomes can be expected from postsecondary completion. Lumina Foundation is leading a national conversation about the disruptive innovations helping to design and build a 21st century system that meets the needs of all students.

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Facts & Figures

Read some key facts on how we can increase levels of educational attainment equitably, through the use of quality data to improve student performance, identify problems, measure progress toward the goal and inform policy and decision making at all levels.

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