Research

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 postsecondary education.

Overview

Overview

With an ambitious goal that 60% of all adults in the USA hold a high-quality college degree, certificate, industry certification, or other credential of value by 2025 it’s imperative that we support the adoption of evidence-based approaches, policies, and programs and have relevant and accurate data that reflects today’s students and credentials. We concentrate on ensuring that adults, especially people of color, have access to programs that lead to meaningful credentials, that they have financial and non-financial support along the way to ensure their success, and that the credentials they earn lead to good jobs, higher pay, and greater opportunity to learn and serve others. To accelerate these efforts, we use research, data, and evidence to understand what works, for whom, under what conditions. We work to strengthen the capacity of others to do the same, using data and evidence to inform policy and practice change, and add to the knowledge base of emerging ideas. We invest 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 postsecondary education. This site provides research, data, and evidence of what we are learning across these three areas.

Enrollment

Enrollment: Increasing enrollment and re-enrollment for adult learners

Enrollment has decreased significantly recently, particularly for Black, Hispanic, and Native American adults, for the first time since recovery from the 2008 recession. Unlike many other periods of low enrollment, higher education institutions are competing to attract students with an improving labor market. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has put extreme strain on many would-be students’ basic needs, such as health and safety and affordable childcare, leaving them little time and resources to devote to education and training.

While enrollment trends vary across institution types, overall postsecondary enrollment is down and community colleges, where many of adult learners attend school, have experienced the steepest decline in enrollment. Furthermore, millions of students are going to college but stopping out before they complete a credential.  Much of the existing research and evidence on enrollment and re-enrollment – focuses more on traditional-age students rather than adult learners. Yet, institutions are increasingly serving and looking to serve adult learners. We seek to improve and/or create better data sources and analyses that provide information on students who are enrolling, re-enrolling, and considering short-term credentials. Through our research and evaluations, we seek to understand the evidence-based practices and policies that can successfully engage adult learners to enroll or re-enroll and complete a high-quality credential.

What we know about enrollment trends

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

Persistence

Persistence: Increasing persistence for adult leaners

Regardless of institutional type, there remain inequitable differences in persistence for adults and students of color. We understand that many of these 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.

Given the significant and long-standing disparities in persistence which disproportionately affects these students, it is critical to identify evidence-based policies and practices that can help these student groups overcome barriers to completion. To help more students persist we work to create data systems that include all aspects of a student (e.g., race, age, caregiving status, veteran, previous college, etc.) and the various paths and barriers they face.  Our data, research, and evaluation efforts seek to unveil which student success strategies particularly, educational, financial, and holistic supports that are comprehensive and culturally-sustaining have the greatest impact on adults and students of color.

Why persistence is important

Over 36 million Americans hold some postsecondary education but have not completed and are no longer enrolled

Completion

Completion: 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 consistently get left behind. As a result, it should come as no surprise that completion rates are not where we need them to be and this is especially true for Black, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American students, who are less likely to enroll in college or complete a degree or credential due to systemic and inequitable institutional practices and policies. Programs seeking to better serve adult learners of color need to resolve issues that discourage adults and thus deny some racial and ethnic groups success in higher education. Our data, research, and evaluation efforts seek to include data relevant to today’s students and find effective remedies, by exploring and understanding local, regional, state, and national trends and the evidence-based programs and policies that can increase completion.

Why completion is important

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