Resources / Reports / Lighting the Path to Remove Systemic Barriers in Higher Education and Award Earned Postsecondary Credentials through IHEP’s Degrees When Due Initiative

Lighting the Path to Remove Systemic Barriers in Higher Education and Award Earned Postsecondary Credentials through IHEP’s Degrees When Due Initiative

Published May 2022
focus area Degree Completion

Higher education is the surest pathway to a better living and a better life. Yet, the goal of a valuable college credential goes unrealized for too many students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. Today, more than 36 million Americans have some college credit, but no awarded degree and, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the studies of even more students, deepening inequities that already are pervasive.

Lighting the Path shares key findings from Degrees When Due, a nationwide completion initiative to reengage students and build institutional capacity. Over the course of more than three years, with support from the research team at the University of Utah, IHEP built institutional capacity at nearly 200 institutions from 23 states to award degrees to students who have earned them, reengage former students who have stopped out, and equip students with credentials that help them realize their postsecondary goals.

The report sets forth key findings on barriers to reenrollment, persistence, and completion; outlines strategies to best support returning students; and offers recommendations for policymakers at every level—institutional, state, and federal—to promote equitable degree completion.