Lumina’s Research and Evaluations team invests in reliable research and data related to the populations and issues critical to our mission, particularly in the areas of enrollment, persistence, and completion in education beyond high school.



Because Lumina seeks a quantifiable, time-limited goal—that is, 60% of American adults with a quality post-high school credential by 2025—accurate, relevant data are critical to our work. We seek to ensure that adults, especially people of color, have access to programs that lead to valuable, meaningful credentials, and that they have the resources and support to ensure their success. We use research and data to understand what works, for whom, and under what conditions. And, by adding to the knowledge base, we strengthen the capacity of others to do the same. We invest in research that is critical to our mission—that is, research related to the enrollment, persistence, and completion in adults in postsecondary education. This site offers a few highlights of what we are learning in each of these areas.

Learn more about our evaluative approach.


Increasing enrollment and re-enrollment for adult learners

Recently, and for the first time since recovery from the 2008 recession, enrollment has decreased significantly particularly for Black, Hispanic, and Native American adults. Unlike many other periods of low enrollment, colleges and universities are trying to attract students amidst an improving labor market. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained would-be students’ ability to meet basic needs, such as health care and child care, leaving them little time or resources for education and training.

While enrollment trends vary across institution types, postsecondary enrollment is down overall. Community colleges, where many adult learners attend, have seen the steepest decline. Also, millions of students are going to college but stopping out before they earn a credential. Most research on enrollment and re-enrollment focuses on traditional-age students, even though institutions increasingly serve adult learners. We want to build better sources of data on students who are seeking or considering short-term credentials. Through our research and evaluations, we seek to understand practices and policies that help adult learners enroll in and complete programs that lead to high-quality credentials.

What we know about enrollment trends

Overall postsecondary enrollment is down 4.2 percent from a year ago.


Increasing persistence for adult leaners

Regardless of institutional type, inequities exist—and have always existed—in the persistence rates of older students and students of color. Many such students are caregivers, working full-time, veterans, and the first in their families to go to college. They need a system that is flexible, affordable, and responsive to their needs.

It is critical to identify evidence-based policies and practices that can help these student groups overcome barriers and complete their programs. To help more students persist, we work to create data systems that include all student characteristics (race, age, caregiving status, military service, previous college experience, etc.) and the various paths and barriers they face. Our research and evaluation efforts seek to identify the strategies that have the greatest positive impact on adults and students of color.

Why persistence is important

Over 36 million Americans have some education beyond high school but have not completed and are no longer enrolled.


Increasing completion of a degree or high-quality certificate or certification

Americans have long touted education as the great equalizer, but the data clearly show that Black and brown students are consistently left behind. Thanks to systemic and inequitable practices and policies, Black, Hispanic, and Native American students are less likely than their white peers to enroll in college or complete a credential. Programs that seek to better serve adult learners of color must resolve issues that discourage adults and allow these inequities to persist. Our data, research, and evaluation efforts focus on today’s students and seek effective remedies by exploring the trends, programs, and policies that can increase completion.

Why completion is important

The national six-year completion rate has plateaued, increasing just 0.3 percentage points, the smallest increase of the past five years.