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University of Wisconsin Madison
Projects & Initiatives

Project Degree Completion

3.8 Million More Degrees By 2025

APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) developed Project Degree Completion in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities have pledged to collectively award 3.8 million more degrees by 2025.   Together, this increase will represent the public four-year institutions' contribution toward the national goal of having 60 percent of working age adults in the U.S. possess a college degree by that time.
As part of Project Degree Completion, the institutions will increase the number of college degrees they award from an estimated 14.6 million to 18.4 million between 2012 and 2025. As of 2011, public colleges and universities awarded just over 1 million degrees annually. 
To facilitate this progress, APLU has developed a wide array of projects and initiatives (linked to at the bottom of this page) designed to help further strengthen universities' work to increase access, contain costs, improve retainment, better track progress, and ultimately grow completion rates.  The association is also working to identify institutions' best practices and share them across the entire membership.
“Project Degree Completion is an unprecedented initiative that will drive the instructional agenda of public universities and colleges in the years ahead,” APLU President Peter McPherson said.  “Never before have public colleges and universities, and our two associations, formally come together around such an important and sustained effort. This initiative is an economic competitiveness imperative for the future of the country and the individuals involved.” 
  • Details on the Project Degree Completion Commitment
    The institutions signing the commitment also pledge to continue to “constrain per-student educational expenditures while pursuing enhanced educational quality.” The institutions note that public colleges and universities have limited increases in these expenditures to about the rate of inflation for the past 20 years, even though there has been a significant decline in state appropriations for public education in many states during that period. This is what has “forced public institutions to raise tuition to compensate for the significant loss of state dollars,” the signers say, even though they have kept per-student education expenditures essentially flat.
    Other portions of the Project Degree Completion commitment pledge support for student access and diversity; efforts to reduce the average “time to degree” for students; and closer partnerships with elementary and secondary schools and community colleges to prepare students to earn four-year degrees, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
    Not only are commitments from institutions required, but also “a strong, renewed partnership among the states, the federal government, and public colleges and universities.”
    The commitment asserts that “states must provide sufficient appropriations to support students and the discovery of new knowledge,” while the federal government must maintain its “commitment to student financial aid; support for research and innovation; and encouragement of states to continue their support for public colleges and universities.”  The commitment also stresses that public colleges and universities must be “more innovative in the performance of their essential roles.”
    “In short, the full partnership between public colleges and universities, the states and the federal government needs to be reestablished with each partner fulfilling its responsibilities,” say the institutions signing the Project Degree Completion commitment.

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