New study seeks to improve college graduation rate

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A new study underway at Vanderbilt University‘s Peabody College of education and human development seeks to identify the reasons why many students begin but do not finish college and what can be done to help more students earn degrees.

The work is being funded through a $261,000 grant from Lumina Foundation for Education.

“Graduation rates are the Achilles’ heel of American higher education. Recent reports show that we still are a world leader in offering access to higher education, but we lag behind other countries in making sure that students graduate on time,” Will Doyle, assistant professor of public policy in the Peabody Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations and the grant’s primary investigator, said. “Our research seeks to connect the policies that are in place at the institutional level with state-level policy to help leaders create a coherent strategy for ensuring student success.”

Doyle’s co-investigators on the two-year project are John Braxton, professor of education, and Michael McClendon, associate professor of public policy and higher education.

“We will study both the state-level characteristics and policies that have been shown to be successful in increasing overall graduation rates and institutional policies that can help students achieve their goals,” Doyle continued. “We hope to show how these two sets of policies can be meaningfully connected to solve this pressing problem.”

“This project will be helpful in identifying the states that are doing the best to bring about student completions and those doing the worst,” Martha D. Lamkin, president and CEO, Lumina Foundation, said. “The findings will better inform future policy setting to ensure greater success among the nation’s college students.”

Lumina Foundation for Education is an Indianapolis-based, private foundation dedicated to expanding access and success in education beyond high school. For more information on the foundation, visit

For more Vanderbilt news visit VUCast, the university’s news network, at

Media contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS

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