A Path to Alignment: Connecting K-12 & Higher Education via the Common Core and the Degree Qualifications Profile

Lumina Foundation, by Paul L. Gaston and David T. Conley

“The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which aim to assure competency in English/language  arts and mathematics through the K-12 curriculum, define necessary but not sufficient preparedness  for success in college. The Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP), which describes what a college degree should signify, regardless of major, offers useful but not sufficient guidance to high school students preparing for college study. A coordinated strategy to prepare students to succeed in college would align these two undertakings and thus bridge an unfortunate and harmful cultural chasm between the K-12 world and that of higher education. Chasms call for bridges, and the bridge proposed by this white paper could create a vital thoroughfare”


Learning outcomes to benchmark degrees

The Degree Qualifications Profile

Lumina Foundation, 2011

“Through this document, Lumina Foundation for Education offers a “Degree Qualifications Profile,” a tool that can help transform U.S. higher education. A Degree Profile — or qualifications framework — illustrates clearly what students should be expected to know and be able to do once they earn their degrees — at any level. This Degree Profile thus proposes specific learning outcomes that benchmark the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees — which constitute the great majority of postsecondary degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities — regardless of a student’s field of specialization.                                                 The learning outcomes specified in this Degree Profile are not without precedent. In fact, the Degree Profile draws on more than a decade of widespread debate and effort, across all levels of U.S. higher education, to define expected learning outcomes that graduates need for work, citizenship, global participation and life.
Building from this work, this Degree Profile is deliberately offered as a “beta version” that will be further tested and refined by a variety of stakeholders.The long-term goal is to clearly define quality in American higher education and to develop new capacity throughout postsecondary education to ensure that students
achieve the levels of learning they need and deserve.”

Increasing percentage of degree-bearing Americans by 2025

The Big Goal: To increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025
Lumina Foundation

“The mission of Lumina Foundation for Education is to expand access and success in education beyond high school, particularly among adults, first-generation college going students, low-income students and students of color. This mission is directed toward a single, overarching big goal – to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials1 to 60 percent by the year 2025.”

Improving the higher education attainment rate

Lumina Foundation

“The knowledge economy requires Americans to develop the skills that are demanded in a globally competitive environment. As a result, increasing higher education attainment is critical to the U.S. economy. The implications of this shift toward a more highly skilled workforce cannot be overstated. For generations, the American economy created large numbers of middle class jobs that did not require high levels of skill or knowledge. Because of global competition, these jobs are rapidly disappearing. It is not that low-skill jobs do not exist in the U.S.; it is that the Americans who hold them are not likely to enter or remain in the middle class. They are not likely to have access to quality health care, save for retirement or assure their children access to higher education. In short, completing some form of higher education is now critical for reaching the middle-class.

Lumina’s big goal is based on the reality that our country faces social and economic opportunities that can best be addressed by educating many more people beyond high school. As a nation, this means we must continue to focus on approaches that make higher education more accessible and affordable for all. We also must ensure that all students who come to college graduate with meaningful, high-quality degrees and credentials that enable them to contribute to the workforce, improve society and provide for themselves and their families. Current economic conditions have only made this priority more clear and more urgent, both for short-term economic recovery and long-term economic success.

The American public has rapidly come to this same conclusion. Americans have always valued higher education and been aware that it delivers significant economic and social benefits. But they never really believed it was a necessity – until now. Fifty-five percent of Americans now believe that obtaining a college degree is the only way to succeed. As recently as 2000, only 30 percent of Americans believed that. Unfortunately, many in the education and policy worlds fail to understand what their constituencies see very clearly. Too often we continue to hear debates about who is or isn’t “college material.”

Evidence that we can do better comes from the fact that attainment rates are rising in almost every industrialized or post-industrial country in the world, except for the U.S. Today, roughly 39 percent of American adults hold a two- or four-year degree – a rate that has held remarkably steady for four decades. But in several other countries, more than half of young adults are degree holders. Even more disturbing for the U.S. is that attainment rates in these other countries continue to climb while ours remains stagnant.

We do not believe the U.S. needs to increase higher education attainment simply because of our ranking in international comparisons. However, it is vitally important that we be clear about what we know with certainty about higher education attainment. Higher education attainment in the U.S. – the percent of the American population with a postsecondary credential or degree – has remained flat for 40 years, in spite of the dramatic economic and social changes during that period. Meantime, higher education attainment in the rest of the world has increased – in some case at dramatic rates. We believe this reflects a fundamental change in the role higher education plays in advanced economies – a change that the U.S. ignores at its peril.”

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