Lumina names NDUS recipient of Challenge Grant to boost attainment

September 14, 2017

The North Dakota University System was selected to receive a $99,500 Attainment Challenge Grant from Lumina Foundation. Funding will support strategic initiatives to increase the state’s postsecondary attainment rate to 65 percent by 2025, with the potential to reach 70 percent attainment by 2030.

According to the 2017 issue of A Stronger Nation, Lumina’s annual report on postsecondary attainment, North Dakota’s attainment rate was 48.8 percent in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. That’s above the national rate of 45.8 percent, but short of estimates from labor economists who say 60 percent of all jobs will require some form of high-quality postsecondary credentials by the end of this decade.

The grant will support efforts to develop a framework for meeting the state’s 65 percent attainment goal, with a focus on defining the labor market value and learning outcomes of postsecondary credentials. The grant will also aim toward bringing adult learners, first-generation students and underrepresented populations new programs that are tailored to meet changing workforce needs.

“Workforce studies are projecting a need for more credentialed employees in the future and broader education possibilities will need to be positioned to answer that demand,” said Mark Hagerott, NDUS chancellor. “Our attainment goal helps us achieve those broader educational opportunities which will help ensure that our workforce remains competitive.”

The grant will support efforts to increase attainment of North Dakota’s underrepresented populations. Just over 30.3 percent of American Indian adults, 34.6 percent of Hispanic students and 26.8 percent of African-Americans hold a two- or four-year degree, compared to 46.8 percent of white North Dakotans.

“We applaud the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education for its commitment to increasing education attainment beyond high school,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO. “Today’s workplace demands a greater breadth and depth of talent and North Dakota is wise to pursue a strategy focused on ensuring its residents possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in our rapidly changing labor market.”

“We must do more to increase our potential to attract and retain businesses in search of skilled workers,” said Don Morton, chair of North Dakota’s State Board of Higher Education. “By working to reach our attainment goal, we will build momentum and create a better environment from which to learn and grow for our students and ultimately our state.”

Lumina launched its Attainment Challenge Grant program last fall and committed to support states with up to $100,000 for developing and implementing evidence-based policies to improve student success, close equity gaps, and help their states reach a robust postsecondary attainment goal. The development of high-quality action plans made these states eligible for challenge grant funding of up to $100,000 each: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Vermont.

The NDUS website will keep up-to-date with progress on the grant and any updates that will be occurring. In addition, NDUS will be looking for opportunities to engage a wide range of stakeholders in work toward meeting the attainment goal. Please visit for more information.