Increasing the proportion of the adult population with a higher-education degree is critical to creating opportunities for individuals and sustaining the country’s economic growth. Yet college attainment rates in the U.S. have remained nearly flat for the past 10 years, whereas they have continued to rise in most industrialized nations. Based on a recent analysis, we estimate that the U.S. needs to graduate roughly one million more people a year by 2020 to ensure that the country has the skilled workers it needs to maintain economic growth.
How could higher education systems achieve that objective in the current fiscal context, when states are much more likely to cut education budgets than expand them?
In a new report “Winning by degrees: the strategies of highly productive higher-education institutions”, we show that to graduate up to one million more students per year without increasing public spending or compromising quality, the U.S. higher-education institutions would need to improve their degree completion productivity by an average of 23 percent. This sounds like a formidable challenge but our research shows that it is feasible by boosting graduation rates and improving cost efficiency, as has been demonstrated by top quartile U.S. institutions that are already 17 to 38 percent more productive than their peer group average.
Through an in-depth study of detailed data on performance, costs and practices shared by eight highly productive schools, we identified five winning strategies, focusing on raising the rate at which students complete their degrees and improving cost efficiency. Together these strategies can result in over 60 percent higher degree productivity.
For more information, read a related article from McKinsey Quarterly: Boosting productivity in US higher education.