Goal 2025 can be the key that unlocks
a national trove of talent
This nation has arrived at a pivotal point. Economically, though we’ve finally climbed out of the valley of the Great Recession, we’re still far from anything that feels like a peak. For many Americans, the traditional formulas for success no longer seem viable; old rules no longer seem to apply.
In short, our country is changing — economically, socially, culturally, demographically, technologically, politically — and these changes are increasingly rapid, even constant. Facing an uncertain future, many Americans are understandably anxious, even fearful, about how to assure a better life for themselves and their families.
The thing is, the nation’s fundamentals really haven’t changed. Not in 240 years.
The secret to individual and societal success, the fuel that drives this nation’s economy, the powerful atom at the core of the American dream — that has never changed. It is today what it has always been: talent — that is, the knowledge, skills and abilities of our citizens.
America’s deep reservoir of talent is what has set this country apart and allowed us to thrive for more than two centuries. It’s made us the most innovative, prosperous and secure nation in history, the envy of much of the world.
But the competition for talent has never been greater — and the stakes have never been higher. Global competition has soared. Some 2 million jobs are unfilled in this country, lacking qualified applicants. Three-fourths of American CEOs cite major problems in finding qualified people to fill these jobs. And two-thirds of all jobs being created today require some form of post-high school education or training.
Talent is not merely innate ability; rather, it’s a collection of knowledge and skills that are continually honed by education and experience to meet the needs of an ever-changing economy and society. In short, the recipe for 21st century success is far more complex than it used to be, and the need for talent — all kinds of talent — is greater than ever. This means we need to find new ways to develop our nation’s talent to assure all Americans have the opportunity to create a better future.
The vital step in meeting this exploding demand for talent — the indispensable step, we at Lumina Foundation are convinced — is to significantly increase postsecondary attainment rates, especially among students who represent our future as a nation: non-white students, working adults, first-generation students and low-income students.
“What matters for us — and what is genuinely important in the vital effort to meet the nation’s need for talent — isn’t so much the credential itself. What matters is the learning inherent in that credential: the knowledge, skills and abilities a student has developed while earning it.”
Increasing student success has been our aim for many years, of course, and Lumina has embraced that mission firmly and formally by adopting an ambitious attainment goal and organizing all of our work around it. That goal, which we call Goal 2025, calls for 60 percent of Americans to hold a degree, certificate or other high-quality postsecondary credential by the year 2025.
This annual report, A Stronger Nation, is perhaps our best-known tool in the Goal 2025 effort. This edition of Stronger Nation, our seventh, is like all of its predecessors in that it uses Census data to track progress in degree-attainment rates — on a national scale, in the country’s largest metropolitan areas, in all 50 states, even down to the county level.
However, this year’s report also represents a milestone. For the first time, it contains national data and state-specific estimates showing Americans’ attainment, not only of degrees, but of high-quality postsecondary certificates.
As Goal 2025 has always stated clearly, Lumina sees all high-quality credentials — not just degrees — as valuable and valid, so long as they lead to further education and employment.
What matters for us — and what is genuinely important in the vital effort to meet the nation’s need for talent — isn’t so much the credential itself. What matters is the learning inherent in that credential: the knowledge, skills and abilities a student has developed while earning it.
Stronger Nation is all about the evidence of that learning — quantifying it, tracking it, pinpointing the places where it is and isn’t happening. As such, it can be immensely helpful as you work in your own state, county or metro area to increase residents’ attainment of high-quality credentials.
I urge you to use this report as you embrace the attainment challenge. We at Lumina hope you’ll join us in that effort because it’s critical to America’s future. In fact, it’s the one sure path to a nation that is more talented — and therefore more prosperous, more equitable, more secure … and, we hope, more confident in its future.
Jamie P. Merisotis
President and CEO