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As of early last year, 42 U.S. states had set goals for the share of their residents who hold a college degree or other postsecondary credential, according to a new analysis from Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit research group, and the Joyce Foundation.

The paper reviews the motivations for these state goals as well as the different approaches states are taking.

"The extent to which these attainment goals will actually lead to substantive improvements in postsecondary attainment remains unclear, although some preliminary evidence suggests that many states may have difficulty meeting their goals," the report said. "In future analyses, Ithaka S+R will explore the policy and programmatic levers states have to accelerate their progress to more definitively understand the feasibility of meeting attainment goals and the investments that would be needed to do so."

In a related blog post, Ithaka S+R published an interview with David Tandberg, the vice president for policy research and strategic initiatives at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. He said states that are doing well in setting and making progress toward their credential attainment goals include Indiana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.