Complete College America was founded with support from impatient reformers at the institutional, state, and federal levels—dozens of people who agreed the level of failure in college success and completion was simply unacceptable. Most importantly, despite the headwinds, these people were determined to make significant change no matter what.

Over 11 years later, CCA has developed a national fellowship of committed change agents within its Alliance. CCA’s staff and network of Fellows are viewed across the field as possessing deep content expertise on—and lived experience with—how to truly impact change with partners seeking to close institutional performance gaps.

Our mantra, for nearly a decade, has been: data drives the change. But the change we seek will only happen if we serve the students and institutions that need it most. So CCA spent time diagnosing the problem, while also identifying solutions—solutions that served as the impetus for the 2013 release of The Game Changers, which highlighted key structural reforms in higher education required to complement the college access agenda with a laser focus on completion.

As a learning organization, we have since turned the mirror on ourselves and asked some important questions: 

  • Have the Game Changers truly changed the game?
  • Who is in the game and which students remain on the bench?
  • Although we are serving more students better, are we serving ALL students well?


Upon reflection, one thing was clear: There is no shortage of strategies that promise to improve outcomes for college students. A decade ago, there were a handful of proven ideas; today, there are dozens of approaches that, when implemented well, can increase graduation rates. In our view, what the field needs now is focus and depth—each of which is critical to ensure that institutions have an equity-focused approach to changing culture and practice.

This realization is the reason for our renewed focus on partnering with institutions to identify which strategies are most appropriate for their work—and how we can deepen implementation to ensure the greatest impact on addressing inequities. CCA’s theory of change continues to be rooted in behavioral economics and the reality that the more nuanced that you are, the less likelihood that anything gets done. But we still recognize the need for nuance, given the complexity of student populations and institutional type.  

To obtain equitable outcomes for Black, Latinx, and Pell-eligible students, CCA will continue showcasing the most critical and data-informed strategies that will transform the student experience within the following core pillars of success:

  • Purpose: Aligning the college experience to each students’ goals for the future
  • Momentum: Helping students meet critical early milestones that put them on track to graduate
  • Structure: Building course road maps that make the path to a degree clear
  • Support: Addressing student needs and removing barriers to academic success


With these foundational structural components and embedded Game Changers, as our North Star, we believe that we will be guided to some shared universal truths with regard to college completion and its importance for our social and economic futures. 

 Despite an environment of increased political polarization and concern for higher education credentials of purpose and value as pathways for socioeconomic mobility, Complete College America believes there is great reason for optimism, and a clear path forward. With a little more support—and a lot of common sense—we can ensure that many more young people and adult learners get the high-quality college education that will help them live productive and fulfilling lives.

More than ten years ago, CCA formed around an inspired thought that wasn’t part of the higher-ed ethos. We  recognized the need to act where others hadn’t, and trusted our instincts to create a movement. Now, we’ve arrived at another pivotal moment where we must lead transformational change to create the just system that we envision. Our country needs our collective efforts. And our students demand it.


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