Lumina announces attainment challenge grant recipients
State Policy

Lumina announces attainment challenge grant recipients

Supporting states to adopt postsecondary attainment goals and close equity gaps

INDIANAPOLIS – As another school year begins, a baker’s dozen of states have signed on to an ambitious program seeking to sharply raise the percentage of Americans with college degrees and high-quality certifications.

“Labor economists say 60 percent of all jobs will require some form of high-quality postsecondary credentials by the end of this decade,” said Scott Jenkins, Lumina Foundation’s state policy director. “States that recognize the need to increase the number of residents with education beyond high school will be ahead of their state counterparts.”

Lumina Foundation launched its Attainment Challenge Grant (ACG) program in late 2016 committing to support states with funds for developing and implementing policies to improve student success, close equity gaps, and reach robust postsecondary attainment goals.

The foundation created the program to motivate states both to adopt a rigorous attainment goal and then design a robust action plan focused on equity and improvement.

The development of these high-quality action plans made these states eligible for challenge grant funding of up to $100,000 each: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Vermont.

These states are at various stages of implementation, and this summer, they met in Phoenix to work with national experts and exemplar states to form a network to foster collaboration and share best practices. Attendees heard from leaders in fellow states about approaches to understanding and addressing equity gaps, approaches that can be used to inform and guide policy development to reach their own specific attainment goals.

“We applaud all of our Attainment Challenge Grant recipients for their commitment to increasing educational attainment beyond high school and assuring that institutions are implementing proven strategies to close gaps in achievement based on race and ethnicity,” said Danette Howard, Lumina’s chief strategy officer and senior vice president. “Demographics are changing, and we have a responsibility to ensure that learners from all backgrounds gain the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in our rapidly changing labor market. We are proud to support states with committed leaders working to expand the breadth and depth of talent to fuel economic vitality and stronger, more inclusive communities.”

Each state’s postsecondary attainment goal is individually set by the state with its own specific percentages. Lumina’s annual report on current postsecondary attainment rates for each state, as well as the nation, can be seen in the 2017 edition of A Stronger Nation, which this year includes a powerful data visualization tool that allows in-depth, county-level exploration of attainment levels across the country.

There are currently 40 states with rigorous attainment goals that meet Lumina Foundation criteria according to the foundation’s state policy agenda. Lumina’s state policy agenda begins with states setting robust postsecondary attainment goals that are disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and income. It also recommends ways in which states can identify, attract, and spend resources so that many more Americans can afford to earn postsecondary credentials with workplace value.

Now that the attainment challenge grants have been awarded, states interested in setting educational attainment goals can apply for technical assistance through Strategy Labs, Lumina Foundation’s primary tool for supporting states to increase postsecondary attainment. Strategy Labs provides technical assistance funds and consulting support to state leaders and organizations working to increase attainment by setting goals, tracking progress, reforming finance, expanding alternative pathways to credentials, and other policy developments.

The technical assistance funds can be used to reimburse the eligible expenses of state policymakers, practitioners, and agencies to learn and share higher education policy information, research, and nonpartisan analysis to advance Lumina’s ambitious goal to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

To apply for technical assistance, a representative from an appropriate state entity should contact Gretchen Syverud, strategy officer for state policy, at or 317.951.5340.

About Lumina Foundation:  Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. The Foundation’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

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