Much has been written about the need for us to increase attendance and graduation rates at today’s two- and four-year institutions in the national quest to have 60% of Americans holding a degree, certificate or other high quality credential by 2025.

According to Lumina Foundation, an independent foundation focused on expanding student success and access to postsecondary education, we’re making progress. The proportion of the U.S. population between the ages of 25 and 64 who hold a two- or four-year college degree reached 40.4% in 2014, a 2.1% increase since this measure was first reported in 2008.

Degree attainment has increased even faster among adults aged 25 to 34 during the same period, equal to 42.3% in 2014, a 4.5% increase over the same measure in 2008.

As encouraging as these trends are, most experts agree they are not enough to reach our 2025 goal. Lumina projects 35.7 million Americans will earn postsecondary credentials that will count toward Goal 2025. However, they also project an additional 10.9 million Americans between the ages of 15 and 54 would need to be added to reach the 60% goal by 2025.

It’s no wonder college attainment is on every educator’s mind these days.

But there are those who see the educational challenge as going beyond college attainment to include encouraging development of specific skills that will be necessary for students to thrive and persist in college and in the coming century.

Organizations like the Partnership for 21st Century Learning are hard at work partnering with states to make sure K-12 students develop the deeper, critical skills they will need to be productive and competitive in the new world they will be living in.

The Framework for 21st Century Learning outlines desired student outcomes and the support systems necessary for their attainment.

The end benefit of the framework is to enhance students’ creativity, communications skills, ability to collaborate and to think critically, to help them thrive in a highly dynamic work environment.

P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning

P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning

We think it’s important to note that these outcomes, referred to as The 4 Cs, are aimed at building the softer, but no-less-important personal skill sets not necessarily associated with traditional student performance.

In our view, the process of helping students develop their own 4 Cs starts with the student becoming aware of their unique personal strengths and challenges through the use of clinically proven tools that measure things like personality type, learning and work style preferences and deeper talents and skills.

This greater self-awareness is a foundation the individual can call upon for their entire life, through periodic reassessment of their unique strengths and challenges and understanding how they evolve over time.

Self-knowledge then becomes a personal guidance system, helping people make better decisions by applying their personal 4 C skills to the career, training and education opportunities and challenges they are likely to be facing in the future.