Experts Convene for College Completion Symposium at ED

How do we meet the diverse needs of the 21st century scholar and meet the President’s 2020 goal of once again leading the world in college graduation rates?

College Completion Symposium

Secretary Duncan speaks at the College Completion Symposium. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

This is the challenge Secretary Duncan posed to researchers, policy experts, and practitioners from 30 postsecondary institutions from across the country who shared evidence-based best practices and ideas during a one-day symposium on college completion at the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

“All the good ideas are out there with you guys,” Duncan said. “I urge you to be creative and thoughtful.”

If there was one important takeaway from the presentations and discussions, it was that one size does not fit all.

Tom Brock, Director of the Young Adults and Postsecondary Education Policy Area from the nonprofit MDRC, presented results from studies looking at student services programs to address the benefits of “increasing the amount of counseling and advising students receive and attaching students to tutoring services on campus.”

Regina Bain, Regional Vice President of the nonprofit organization Posse Foundation, said she learned a lot from the various institutions represented at the symposium.

“I appreciated the idea of online coaching tools. I really believe in one-on-one, intensive, multilayered coaching and advising for individuals,” she said.

The symposium is one more step in ED’s commitment to meeting the President’s 2020 goal, and ensuring that America’s graduates are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.

Click here to read President Obama’s Blueprint for making college more affordable.

Natalie Torentinos is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach


  1. The sad fact for most children/individuals that come from low-income and unfortunately did not receive scholarships it’s a tough road to finish college. I attend a state university which costs $12,000 annually this is not factoring in books plus living expenses etc. For an average student that means $48,000 just in tuition cost to finish their bachelor. We all know that a bachelor now means very little and a Masters or beyond is needed in most fields to earn a semi-ok living.

    In my case, I am in my 3rd year (which I have worked and paid for my education out of my own pocket) working toward a BA in Accounting. Now that I have become unemployed I have decided to apply for fasfa and research student loans. Fasfa pell grant is estimating $3,000 for the year (my annual income was only slightly above the line of poverty) and $12,500 for student loans. With my understanding of the information I will have $15,500 for the school year to pay for college ………………great that covers tuition & hopefully all books. Out of this I will owe $12,500 annual and the $3,000 the tab is picked up. Yes, I am looking for full-time employment and plan to juggle full-time education as well. But realistically I have no other choice. Should I want to concentrate my energies and finish my degree while working a part-time is difficult as I still have to cover transportation, housing, and food……that’s with no phone, home internet (which is required for most classes)…so on a very low budget $500 housing, $300 transportation (that’s no car payment, insurance $100 bare coverage, and $200 for gas (we all know this will barely get you there), we could cut this down a few dollars by taking public transportation but in some cities like this one that is not only unlikely but also dangerous (cutting through bad areas, manifesting with a good majority of questionable characters, etc), $200 for food & hygiene product/care at $1000…….. my take home has to be $250 per week to barely cover the cost of living meaning I would need to work close to 30 hours at $10 just to survive and this does not include school duties so lets say 16 hours a week of lecture, 48 hours of studying (3x’s is what is recommend on top of lecture so 4 credit hours by 3 is 12 hours per class with a full load) that means a dedication of 13.5 hours a day in order to full-fill all your commitments, this does not include sleep, eating, etc………….so 8 hours of sleep leaves you 2.5 hours for commuting, eating, showering, etc.

    No one ever said getting a higher education is easy but for the average person the above stated commitment is close to impossible given circumstances such as children, taking care of elderly family, health issues that don’t allow for such endurance, and just being about to take a little time to take care of yourself (exercise, cooking meals, etc).

    After this long commitment what can I expect? A 35,000 a year job (that is a very modest living) unless I push through for the needed further education which is more expensive. It’s a viscous cycle.

    Offer additional funding for students pursuing degrees in fields that are needed such as engineering, finance, accounting, and various medical degrees. Give people incentive to pursue fields that will produce and give them the chance to not need to relay on assistance. If you give this generation the tools for a brighter tomorrow then today’s generation will create an even better generation of tomorrow.

    It’s not just education that is need but higher education concentrated gears toward building a country full of citizens who produce and make this country better each day.

    I would greatly appreciate those who may have insight into additional sources that I can research to fund my education and complete a higher education.

  2. As i pay my 2 sons college bills thru sallie mae ,i am thinking what if they had to pay these loans back at 8.50% interest rate which is 0n 100,000.00 is 8377.83 in iterest per year ,dont u think this is insane with no jobs , i am sure students will not be paying these loans back . Goverment should be lowering these crazy rates to 3percent and give these kids a chance instead of them not paying at all .

  3. Interactive learning is just an opportunity to placate the students and make a few high tech companies richer.

    There is no substitute for sweat and hard work when it comes to learning. Keep reading and studying the books before they are all burned.

    The greatest inventors and scientists of the 1920’s did not learn the deep concepts playing with techie tools and clickers.

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