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Higher Ed in the USA, from laggard to leader

In 1990, around 40% of 25-34 year olds in the US had completed higher education – the highest percentage of any nation. Today, the percentage still hovers around 40%, but the US’s ranking has dropped from 1st to 12th.

But while the percentage has remained stagnant in this country – the work environment and skill requirements have not. A report from Georgetown University predict that 65% of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020, and other reports suggest there are already shortages of qualified workers in the US.

The economic, social and cultural implications of stagnating attainment has begun to mobilize leaders in government, philanthropy and industry to take action.

The Lumina Foundation draws a line in the sand

One such organization is the Lumina Foundation, the nation’s largest foundation focused on higher education, and leading voice in higher education attainment.

In 2009 the foundation drew a line in the sand by committing to the goal of increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025 (Goal 2025).

Public awareness and engagement was seen as a key component of realizing Goal 2025, and in September 2012 the foundation kicked off a project to transform Goal 2025 into a social movement. Wolff Olins was brought in to help.

A movement needs a call to action, and a place to act

As we kicked off the project, it became evident that there was not a clear ‘call to action’ for the wider public in the higher education space – a core component of social movement success and sustainability. The world of higher education (and those working to transform it or help students through it) is highly fragmented, and often duplicative with initiatives. Once made aware of the need to increase attainment, there is no one place to send the public to take action. We were at risk of frustrating the freshly incited base.

At the same time we learned that organizations who’d adopted Goal 2025 were asking for more guidance, support and tools to achieve it.

A solution emerged that had the potential to be in service of both issues:

1. Create an indispensable digital resource supporting organizations working to achieve Goal 2025, building partnerships between them and synchronizing efforts.

and by doing so…

2. …become the one-stop destination for students and parents seeking guidance, and volunteers – the place to take action.

A movement in the making

With Lumina’s support of this approach and a new name (MoveED), the team set about building a website that could attract and engage the network of organizations working to increase higher education attainment in the USA.

This network and their assets are forming the foundation and infrastructure for a public facing social movement – the destination for the movement’s ‘call to action’.

The site has started with 3 core features:

1. A map with every player in the higher education attainment place mapped to help build networks
2. Partner pages that provide a national, neutral platform to showcase work and impact to build awareness and support
3. The definitive collection of the best thinking, tools and resources in higher education attainment to keep ahead, build capacity and eliminate duplication

MoveED was created because we must do more as a nation to make education beyond high school a reality for more people – especially low-income students, students of color, first generation students and adult learners. So many good organizations are working in this space, and we’re striving to harness their ideas and solutions to create a more powerful force for change.” Jamie P. Merisotis, President and CEO of Lumina Foundation
Constant learning, course correcting…and growth

This platform is a first in the world of higher education attainment – but its design allows constant course correction. Real time usage data and flexible back end systems allow constant learning, updating and scaling at a relatively low cost and risk.

And its working. As of October 2014, MoveED has grown to include nearly 3,000 organizations since being publicly launched in April. A smaller subset of lead partners are helping shape the functionality and content of the site - helping in the transition of Goal 2025 being Lumina’s goal, to the nation’s goal.

We are proud to be working shoulder-to-shoulder with MoveED and Lumina Foundation on this dynamic and crucial endeavour.” John Gomperts, President and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance

Keep an eye on this movement in the making at www.moveed.org