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Today, we’re excited to celebrate National Higher Education Day.

What is #NationalHigherEducationDay, you ask? Let us tell you!

Celebrated annually on June 6, it’s a day to champion the value of higher education — and to acknowledge all of the hard work that must be done to make sure everyone can share in it.

The Value of Higher Education – National Higher Education Day

The value of a college education

College not only provides students with a life-changing experience that will broaden their perspective and deepen their understanding of the world around us, it’s also the surest path to a better life. Over the course of their careers, a college degree is worth $2.8 million.1

This is more than just some extra spending money in your bank account. It’s the type of financial security that allows you to pursue a career in a field you’re passionate about or move forward with a Major Life Decision.

Despite all of this, only 61% of college students think that a college offers a good value, according to a recent Student Monitor report.2

To understand why, we’d like to use National Higher Education Day as cause to look at three of higher ed’s biggest challenges — and think about how we can work together to solve them.

Improving student outcomes

A college education provides students with a number of benefits. But sometimes it’s helpful to remember that students will only be able to realize these benefits if they complete their courses and go on to graduate.

Unfortunately, fewer than 6 in 10 students who enter college go on to graduate.3 Fewer still will graduate on-time.

Poorer students experience the lowest graduation rates. The graduation rate of college students born in the 1980s and who are from lower-income families is 11.8%. Among students from middle-income families, the graduation rate is 32.5%. For students from higher-income families, the graduation rate jumps to 60.1%.4

There are many reasons for higher education’s low graduation rates, but none is bigger than the fact that too many students arrive on campus unprepared for the academic rigor of college. 52% of 2-year college students require remediation in math5; however, only around half the students enrolled in remedial math courses go on to complete them.6

As we see it, the biggest opportunity to improve on-time graduate rates is to help students who aren’t prepared for college — particularly in math — get up to speed quickly.

Making learning accessible to all

It’s often said that education is our society’s great equalizer. But what if not everyone has the same access to higher education?

11% of undergraduate students — nearly 2 million in total — have diagnosed disabilities.7 These students are faced with a number of challenges, not the least of which is course materials that aren’t fully ADA compliant. This doesn’t include students who have undiagnosed disabilities in college, when students often have to self report that they are learning disabled.

These challenges add up to make a big impact. About one-third of students with disabilities who are enrolled at a 4-year institution graduate within 8 years. At 2-year institutions, that number is slightly higher, at 41%.8

Improving the learning experience for students with disabilities is a complex issue. But if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that course materials that are fully ADA compliant should become the norm.


College provides an incredible value to students. But it’s still expensive.

$1.5 trillion in total U.S. student debt.9 An average debt of more than $39K for the Class of 2017.10 These numbers can be so big that they almost seem to lose meaning.

But for students, their impact is very real.

According to Student Monitor, financial strain accounts for 2 of students’ top 5 concerns.11 And, according to a survey released by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, 36% of students do not get enough to eat, and a similar number lack a secure place to live.12

We have a shared obligation to make college more affordable, without compromising outcomes or accessibility.

Putting achievement within reach with alta

We built alta, Knewton’s fully integrated adaptive learning courseware, with higher education’s biggest challenges in mind.

Alta combines Knewton’s adaptive learning technology with high-quality openly available content to help students achieve mastery. Alta is accessible to all learners: its technology, content and user experience are all WCAG 2.0 AA-level ADA compliant. At $44 for 2-year access, it’s also affordable.

Solving higher education’s biggest challenges won’t happen overnight, but if we are to reaffirm the value of college for all learners, we must never lose sight of them.

What else needs to be done to improve higher education? What more can we be doing to help? Hit us up on social and tag your post with #NationalHigherEd day.


  1. Georgetown University: The College Payoff
  2. Student Monitor: Lifestyle & Media – Spring 2018
  3. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center: Signature 14 Completing College: A National View of Student Completion Rates – Fall 2011 Cohort
  4. University of Michigan: Growing Wealth Gaps in Education
  5. Complete College America: Data dashboard
  6. National Center for Education Statistics: Remedial Coursetaking at U.S. Public 2- and 4-Year Institutions
  7. National Center for Education Statistics: Fast facts
  8. National Center for Special Education Research: The Post-High School Outcomes of Young Adults With Disabilities up to 6 Years After High School
  9. Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit
  10. Data provided by Mark Kantrowitz to
  11. Student Monitor: Lifestyle & Media – Spring 2018
  12. Wisconsin HOPE Lab: Still Hungry and Homeless in College