Most people consider education to be a bridge to a better life, playing a fundamental role in improving the socioeconomic status of individuals, families, and communities. Many students enroll in postsecondary education in an attempt to improve their employment prospects. The United States ranks very low compared to other industrialized countries in the percentage of its young people earning an associate’s degree or higher or completing a degree. The graduation rate for public high schools in many states has dropped below 75%, and in 10 states, fewer than half of high school graduates enroll in postsecondary education within one year. Such facts do not bode well for increasing postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion. And yet the majority of positions that pay wages or salaries high enough to support a family—and almost two-thirds of all jobs—require skills associated with at least some education beyond high school.
Understanding the educational transitions that students must navigate into and through postsecondary systems is critical to improving opportunities for all students, as dropout can occur at several stages in the process of moving from secondary into and through postsecondary education. For example, students may not have been adequately prepared for the academic requirements of postsecondary education. They may have difficulty balancing employment, family, and education commitments; they may believe that they are not suited for college; or they may feel out of place and find it difficult to make friends and find social support in the college setting. Transition programs help students succeed in the face of such challenges and attain their educational goals. The NRCCTE sponsors research on programs leading to improved retention and completion of postsecondary programs.