Postsecondary and Career Pathways

Indiana and Beyond: Using Data to Increase College Access & Success in 25 States

By Kevin Greer

This Fall, I had the opportunity to return to my grandparent’s hometown of Indianapolis and lead an interactive workshop session at the National College Access Network (NCAN) Conference. There, in partnership with our partners at GreatSchools, we discussed the College Success Award, a national initiative launched two years ago to help students, parents, school leaders, and policymakers understand how well high schools do in supporting young people to enroll—and succeed—in college.

While neither of my grandparents went to college, today, given the rapidly changing world of work, a college degree or other high-quality credential is increasingly a necessity for all Americans. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, by next year 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school.

Across my two days at the conference, I was inspired by the deep, palpable energy of hundreds of CEOs, Executive Directors, Principals, Superintendents, and other educational leaders who have dedicated their lives—and organizations—to increasing college access and success. At the same time, I was reminded of the incredible complexity that today’s students have to navigate in order to graduate from college. The reality of our educational system today is that most high school students and their families, especially those who attend schools that serve a high percentage of students from low-income backgrounds and students of color, have very little information available to help them understand their post-high school options. Moreover, teachers and college counselors—the experts who work with students on a daily basis—have extremely limited access to data to help them understand what happens to students after graduation. How can we ask high schools to prepare students to enroll and persist in college if they don’t even know what happens to their students when they walk out the door?

The good news is that the College Success Award is moving the field in the right direction. Today, as a result of the combined efforts of New Profit, GreatSchools, Data Quality Campaign, and Chiefs for Change—as well as funding from The Kresge Foundation, ECMC Foundation, Spencer Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation—data on college preparation, enrollment, and persistence is publicly available, on a per-high-school-basis, in 25 states.

As a result of this new data, we’ve been able to start to better understand some of the common practices employed by those high schools that are doing a particularly good job helping their students get to and succeed in college. At NCAN, I shared six practices that our work found are more prevalent in College Success Award-winning schools:

The college landscape today is far different than it was for my Hoosier grandparents. And while it’s clear that a credential beyond a high school diploma is a necessity, the number of options has increased exponentially. Students, education leaders, and policymakers need more and better data to understand how well their schools are doing in preparing them to succeed in college, and the future workforce. The College Success Award is helping to advance that cause, one state at a time.

Call to Action: Interested in learning more? Check out the GreatSchools website and see if your state is participating in the College Success Award. If so, take a look at some of the Award winning schools in your state, or check out some videos of National Spotlight Schools. And if not, let me know you’re interested in changing that by sending an email to