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Achieving Excellence Institute pre-sessions announced!

April 22nd, 2014

Achieving Excellence in Career Technical Education: The National Career Clusters® Institute will take place June 16-18, 2014, and is full of new features to offer the best professional development and networking opportunities in CTE today.

Today we are pleased to announce our pre-sessions (pricing and registration information is available here), designed to prepare attendees for the Achieving Excellence Institute and provide a deeper look at topics affecting how you deliver high-quality CTE today. Beginning June 15, 2014, pre-sessions at the Achieving Excellence Institute include:

  • Teaching for Success: An interactive workshop focused on maximizing student outcomes by teaching to Career Pathways. Integrating recent research in neuroscience, case-studies of effective CTE instruction practices and contextual learning, all CTE stakeholders can benefit from this session’s lessons, either in half-day or an extended full-day form.
  • Counseling for Success: Investigating the crucial role of adequate counseling services in ensuring student success, this session will integrate counseling best practices alongside data on student outcomes and how they can improve through innovative counseling methods. From career guidance to mentorship programs, Counseling for Success provides a comprehensive overview of effective counseling’s role in delivering high-quality CTE.
  • Partnership Opportunities: With the conversation surrounding employer and community engagement in the delivery of CTE gaining steam, the Partnership Opportunities session will offer insight on the evolving relationship between employers, community groups, government and educators in establishing long-term partnerships that improve the quality and continuity of CTE programs.
  • Building Programs of Study: Many states, districts, institutions and educators are in the process of updating programs of study (POS), or are delving into POS for the very first time. This session will give participants practical examples of quality POS from around the country, built along the framework of the National Career Clusters Framework and The Career Pathways Effect.
  • Career Pathways Overview: Designed to help participants learn to develop career pathways that fit their schools’ and students’ unique needs, the Career Pathways Overview covers a host of topics that will help you integrate career pathways into your educational framework.

Each pre-session registration includes a copy of The Career Pathways Effect and excellent networking opportunities with fellow CTE stakeholders from across the country. Don’t wait: register today!

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

Federal Agencies Launch Program to Reach Disconnected Youth

April 21st, 2014

Today, the federal government announced a new pilot program to enable communities, states and tribal governments to better address the needs of their disconnected youth.

The Performance Partnership Pilots, also known as P3, are designed to grant communities more flexibility in using discretionary funding across federal programs to improve the education, employment, health and well-being for more than 5 million disconnected youth across the country by leveraging existing partnerships and supporting promising local strategies.

The federal government defines disconnected youth as being between the ages of 14-24, are low income and either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed or not enrolled in or at risk of dropping out of an educational institution. Depending on a person’s circumstances, he or she may have as many as four case managers in order to access the full range of services needed. This means duplicative paperwork for the youth as well as the social worker and a multitude of other barriers to service.

Through P3, the Obama Administration is hoping to identify and scale up innovative community solutions that address the challenges of reaching disconnected youth. Local, state and tribal agencies are encouraged to re-imagine its current funding streams and services to breakdown program silos for a more coordinated approach. This could include blending competitive and formula grants or obtaining waivers for nonessential program requirements in order to create more opportunities for communities and states to design approaches that best meet their needs and build on their strengths.

To apply, send a letter of interest to Disconnectedyouth@omb.eop.gov.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: President Obama Announces Final Round of TAACCCT Grants and an Apprenticeship Program, DOL Unveils WIA Incentive Grant Awards

April 18th, 2014

CapitolEarlier this week, President Obama and Vice President Biden traveled to the Community College of Allegheny County in Oakdale, Pennsylvania to announce two initiatives related to job training as part of the President’s larger job-driven training agenda outlined in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Both of these initiatives— one relatively new and the other part a larger existing program— are administered and funded by the Department of Labor (DoL).

The fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program was the first of these initiatives to be announced. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Obama Administration designated approximately $2 billion to provide community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions with funds to expand career training programs that can be completed in two years or less. Intended to nurture partnerships between these institutions and employers, funding has been targeted for programs that prepare students for high-skill, high-growth careers. Funds have been distributed on a competitive basis among eligible institutions and have gone out in three separate installments, each with their own overarching areas of focus.

This fourth and final round of TAACCCT grants, worth a total of $450 million, will focus on three priorities outlined by the Administration:

  • Scale In-Demand Job Training Across the Country through National Industry Partnerships.
  • Advance Education & Training to Ensure a Seamless Progression from One Stepping Stone to Another.
  • Improve Statewide Employment and Education Data Integration and Use.

The Obama Administration plans to award at least one grant in every state and applications which emphasize the above priorities may be eligible for larger award amounts. DoL’s full announcement can be found here. Applications are due by July 7th and detailed instructions for applying can be found here.

American Apprenticeship Grants

President Obama and Vice President Biden also announced a new American Apprenticeship Grants competition which is set to begin in the fall of 2014. Funded through H1-B visa applications fees, $100 million in grants will be used to incentivize partnerships between employers, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations. Priority will be given to applications that meet three criteria laid out by the Administration:

  • Launch apprenticeship models in emerging, high-growth fields
  • Align apprenticeships to pathways for further learning and career advancement
  • Scale-up proven apprenticeship models

This announcement looks to strengthen Vice President Biden’s other recent effort  named the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), an initiative that seeks to allow graduates to use their apprenticeship experience for postsecondary credit. More information on RACC can be found here. Application information for American Apprenticeship Grants is forthcoming.

2014 WIA Incentive Grant Awards

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA), in conjunction with the Department of Education (ED), recently announced a list of eight states which are eligible to apply for approximately $9.9 million in incentive grant awards created under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). To have qualified, states must have exceeded performance levels under WIA Title IB and Title II during the 2012 program year. These incentive grants can be used to fund specific programs under the aegis of WIA or programs funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

To receive funds, a state must submit its application for an incentive grant award to DOLETA no later than May 30, 2014. Eligible states include Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. More information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Position Announcement: Administrator, Professional-Technical Education – Idaho

April 15th, 2014

The Idaho Division of Professional-Technical Education has a position opening for Administrator, Professional-Technical Education.

Please click link below to access position announcement:
https://labor.idaho.gov/DHR/ATS/StateJobs/jobannouncement.aspx?announcement_no=NONCLS058071

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

36 States Participate in Field Test for Common Core-aligned Exams

April 14th, 2014

Field testing for Common Core-aligned assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is well under way in schools across the country. Since testing began in late March, millions of students have taken the computer-based assessments in mathematics and English language arts and literacy.

The newly developed exams are designed to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and better determine students’

progress toward college and career readiness through more complex (and non-multiple choice) items. The massive field test – which will involve students from 36 states – is one of the final stages before the assessments are finalized for schools to use in spring 2015.

Students in grades 3 through 11 will take the field tests through June 6, 2014. The assessments are as much a test for the students as they are for the technology being used. Many districts had to make large technological investments to administer the exams.

There haven’t been major incidents reported, aside from smaller technical glitches for both field test efforts. Smarter Balanced was scheduled to launch its tests on March 18, but delayed it by a week for “quality checking,” according to a spokeswoman.

Two additional consortia are developing similar tests for students with severe cognitive disabilities.  Field tests for those assessments are ongoing.

You can keep up with the field testing progress through regular updates from PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

Students aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the testing fun. Put yourself to the test – how would you fare on a practice exam?

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: House Appropriators Question Administration’s FY15 Priorities, New Proposals on Perkins Emerge

April 11th, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request for education.  As we shared previously, the Administration requested $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— a figure that would maintain the same level of funding as in FY 2014, but would keep the program below pre-sequestration levels. The request also proposed to use a portion of these funds for a competitive “innovation fund” similar to what the Administration has previously proposed in its 2012 Blueprint for Career Technical Education (CTE).

During the subcommittee hearing, members from both parties strongly questioned these aspects of the budget request, asked why additional funds were not requested for the Perkins Act and voiced strong opposition to the Administration’s other proposals for new competitively funded programs.

“The concern is that these proposals would be made at the expense of meeting our current obligations,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), echoed these sentiments and emphasized the importance of the overall federal investment in education. The full hearing and testimony transcripts can be found here.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) questioned the Secretary further on these issues asking, “Why does the Administration continue to propose competitive grants that only benefit a few students rather than investing in proven programs like CTE that help to further the goal of career readiness for all students?”

Secretary Duncan did point out that 89 percent of the funds from his department actually go to formula programs and that the Administration on the whole has invested heavily in CTE via alternative funding streams such as the Youth CareerConnect program.

However, there was genuine skepticism from many of the members present for how these proposals would negatively impact the ability of students to equitably access CTE programs throughout the country. As Rep. Roby pointed out, “We have yet to fulfill our commitment to fully fund existing formula-driven programs.”

To that end, members of Congress on and off the subcommittee have been hard at work over the past several weeks to push for additional investments for the Perkins Act ahead of the Congressional FY 2015 appropriations process. Two Dear Colleague letters, one in the House and the other in the Senate, were supported on a bipartisan basis by 93 Representatives and 25 Senators respectively, calling for a restoration of the Perkins Act basic state grant program to pre-sequester levels.

NASDCTEc encourages its members and those in the CTE community to reach out to all of the lawmakers who supported these efforts and thank them for their strong support for the Perkins Act and CTE. Special recognition must go to Sens. Blumenthal (D-CT), Kaine (D-VA), Baldwin (D-WI) and also Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI) who lead these efforts in both Chambers.

Don’t know how to get in touch with Congress? Find out here!

Perkins Amendment Introduced in the House

Earlier this week Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the “Perkins Modernization Act of 2014,” which seeks to more closely align CTE programs with labor market needs. Specifically it would substitute all references to “high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations in current or emerging professions,” currently found in the Perkins Act and substitute them with “employment in current or emerging in-demand industry sectors or occupations.” A definition for an “in-demand industry sector or occupation” is also proposed, which would be informed to a greater extent by labor market information culled from various sources at the local, state and national levels.

As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (HEW) along with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) continue to work to reauthorize the Perkins Act, it is important to note that the above proposal is not a comprehensive reauthorization bill. Instead the Perkins Modernization Act introduces into the reauthorization discussion an issue important to these members of Congress.  NASDCTEc appreciates Reps. Kennedy, Kinzinger, Davis, and Polis’ recognition that CTE programs are crucial components to the nation’s economic competitiveness and agrees that a greater availability and use of labor market information is needed to ensure that CTE programs prepare students for success in the workforce.

NASDCTEc looks forward to working constructively with Congress to thoughtfully reauthorize the Perkins Act and to ensure that programs are empowering students with the necessary skills and knowledge demanded by today’s employers and affording graduates the opportunity to secure family-sustaining wages.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Moves on ESRA

The House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) moved forward on the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366). This bill, introduced by Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Currently, ESRA supports educational research programs such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NAEP exams, and state longitudinal data systems. “Quality education research is critical to successful schools,” Rep. Rokita said upon the Committee’s approval of the bill by voice vote.

A particularly promising aspect of the bill would amend the authorization for state longitudinal data system grants to encourage the alignment of data across K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. This would greatly support efforts to report on post-program employment outcomes for CTE graduates. Moreover, H.R. 4366 emphasizes the importance of using data effectively and lays out a more thoughtful approach to its use. The Workforce Data Quality Campaign, of which NASDCTEc is a national partner, supported this bill. The text of the bill, fact sheets, and other useful information can be found here.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Apprenticeship Bill

On Wednesday Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, a bill that incentivizes employers to increase the number of apprenticeships available to young people. Specifically the LEAP Act would grant companies a $1,500 tax credit for hiring new registered apprentices under the age of 25. A $1,000 tax credit would also be offered to employers hiring apprentices older than 25 years of age. The bill would also incent the expansion of existing apprenticeship programs

The Workforce Investment Act

Both Chambers of Congress have continued discussions on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) this week. According to recent reports, the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chairman of the House HEW Committee, John Kline (R-MN), have publicly stated that they have “resolved nearly all differences” and hope to complete the legislation when Congress returns from recess in late April.

“The likelihood is that the staff will be able to hammer out what is left while we are gone,” Chairman Kline said. “Hopefully, by the time we come back, we’ll have it all put together,” Chairman Harkin was reported as saying.

There has also been speculation that the reauthorization of WIA could possibly be attached to Congress’ consideration of extending unemployment insurance benefits. NASDCTEc will monitor this process as it evolves and will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that a thoughtful reauthorization of the law emerges from these negotiations.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Spring Meeting Recap: CTE & STEM— Making the Connection

April 10th, 2014

STEM-CTERepresentatives from the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and business communities discussed the ways in which STEM and Career Technical Education (CTE) are linked on Wednesday, April 2nd at NASDCTEc’s annual spring meeting. The panel, moderated by Jay Scott Assistant Director at the Kansas Department of Education, explored the ways in which CTE and STEM are connected and examined issue areas which are of interest to both communities. The panel, spurred in part by NASDCTEc’s Associate Executive Director’s recent publication, CTE is your STEM Strategy, tackled this fundamental linkage and looked for ways to build upon this interconnectedness.

Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation (CTEq), started the session off by outlining what a STEM occupation is and the positive impact STEM skills and knowledge have on one’s ability to find gainful employment. Noting that STEM occupations constitute 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, she pointed out that job postings for those with a strong STEM background generally fared much better than those without similar knowledge and skills. She went on to argue that CTE is an effective method of delivery for STEM education and one way to improve upon existing programs that link the two is through greater alignment of CTE programs with the labor market. “Above all, corporate America expects results,” she said. Among other proposals, Dr. Rosen suggested that employers should be engaged (and vice versa) in more meaningful ways and that accountability provisions within current law should be more closely linked with labor market needs.

June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT), focused her remarks on the work her organization is currently doing in the state of Maryland. She outlined the main points of emphasis for her organization and Maryland’s STEM strategy— accelerating student & teacher growth along with cultivating public support for these initiatives. This last point guided the rest of her presentation where she convincingly demonstrated that employer engagement— something the state of Maryland is ideally situated to leverage given its close proximity to many large national employers— was a key tool for improving employment outcomes for students. To support her argument, she highlighted an article that found a strong positive correlation between the number of employer or professional mentor interactions with students and employment outcomes after program completion.

Ted Wells, Chief Strategy Officer for STEM Connector®, rounded out the discussion with an overview of how his organization seeks to support public-private investment in STEM programs. Throughout his presentation he highlighted the importance of CTE and STEM as strategies to effectively address the nation’s skills gap. He went on to argue that this skills gap is clearly evident and that it has persisted for far too long. Wells recommended that CTE be incorporated more heavily into the standards movement, specifically within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common  Core State Standards (CCSS). He also emphasized the importance of involving STEM leaders within the CTE enterprise and stressed the importance of educating policymakers on the importance of these twin issues.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Spring Meeting Recap: CTE a Growing Priority for State Associations

April 9th, 2014

Leaders from three major education associations – representing key state policymakers and education leaders – discussed their growing interest and key initiatives related to CTE on Wednesday April 3 at NASDCTEc’s Spring meeting. The overarching theme from the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE): while CTE hasn’t necessarily been a key area of focus in the past, it certainly is going to be moving forward.

Kristen Amundson, Executive Director of NASBE, noted that given the lack of movement at the federal level on any education policies, including Perkins, the real leverage point is the states. She mentioned some emerging work of NASBE to convene a career council and a tech council, which will pull together state board of education members, CTE educators and leaders, and representatives from business/industry to identify how to best structure state-level CTE policies. She laid out some common challenges with CTE policy – how to measure career readiness, how to break down the “academic” and “CTE” worlds – and that NASBE would also focus on identifying innovative programs and practices to share with their network.

Next, Steven Bowen, Strategic Initiative Director for Innovation at CCSSO, announced a new Career Readiness Task Force being launched this month. This task force – largely instigated by CCSSO’s current chair, Terry Holliday the State Superintendent of Kentucky – will meet over six months to develop a set of recommendations for state CTE policy and touch on Perkins as well. Early areas of focus include standards, secondary-postsecondary alignment, assessing career readiness and addressing barriers to access. Kim Green, NASDCTEc’s executive director, will serve on this task force, along with NASDCTEc’s President John Fischer and Vice President Scott Stump.

Finally, Stephen Parker the NGA’s Legislative Director shared the governors’ perspective on CTE. First he noted that CTE and workforce development were among the most common education priorities identified in the 2014 State of the State addresses (see here and here for NASDCTEc’s take on these addresses). While many governors are exploring state-level policies and levers to support CTE, they have also encouraged the NGA to develop principles for Perkins reauthorization. Last week, coinciding with the Spring meeting, the NGA held conference calls with many State CTE Directors participating to open dialogue. Parker noted that some of the emerging priorities include more state-level flexibility in supporting innovation, a clearer and stronger gubernatorial role, the removal of red tape and the need to address maintenance of effort.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

Spring Meeting Recap: Business and Industry Panel

April 9th, 2014

At a time when U.S. global competitiveness is slipping and a skills gap persists among American workers, business and industry representatives are looking to Career Technical Education (CTE) to skill up help solve many of the problems in the American workforce.

Yet, state CTE directors, institutions and programs often find it difficult to forge true, substantial partnerships with business and industry. Jason Tyszko, Senior Director of Education and Workforce Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) hinted that a gap in communications remains between those in the business and education worlds.

Tyszko sat with Dane Linn, Vice President of the Business Roundtable (BRT) and Timm Boettcher, Chairman of the Industry Workforce Needs Council (IWNC) on a panel titled, “Other Views: Business/Industry Perspectives on Perkins and CTE,” at NASDCTEc’s 2014 Spring Meeting. All three underscored their support for CTE as well as their opinions regarding the forthcoming reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

Employers often feel education officials seek partnerships to procure equipment for their programs without helping businesses engage in deeper and more substantive ways, Tyszko said. He suggested that educators pitch employers by explaining how their programs will help drive entrepreneurship and improve the company’s prospects in the long-run. A focus on cost, performance and return on investment—key focuses of any business—is more likely to catch the attention of an employer, he concluded.

Linn agreed, highlighting the partnership between Northrop Grumman and the University of Maryland, which worked together to develop cybersecurity programs that integrated Northrop Grumman’s expertise into program development. Linn said CTE leaders need to set clear expectations with their business and industry counterparts so that a partnership would amount to more than coming to the table once a month.

The BRT Vice President called CTE a critical pathway to creating a pipeline of qualified workers to fill the high-wage, high-skill jobs of the future. He cited BRT’s upcoming toolkit for a U.S. model of apprenticeships to encourage employers to become more engaged in CTE.

The skills gap is the top reason why the USCCF is talking about CTE, Tyszko said, and it sees the reauthorization of Perkins as one of the many solutions to close the skills gap. He added that the organization has several recommendations to transform the public-private partnership – a list that its members are also taking to Congress, including:

  • Promoting industry credentials to make students career-ready and career-competitive;
  • Encouraging innovation, including competency-based education; and
  • Increasing accountability based on the return on investment.

Boettcher called CTE the backbone of America. The IWNC is amplifying the message about CTE: Learning that works for America® through speaking engagements by its members, whitepapers and advocacy in conjunction with NASDCTEc and the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

For the upcoming Perkins reauthorization, Boettcher said that IWNC plans to continue its alliance with NASDCTEc and ACTE around a more coordinated effort to target areas in the law that need the most improvement. He also suggested that a major point for crossover between business and CTE lay in promoting CTE’s visibility to the public and changing outdated perceptions of CTE equating the modern field to vocational education programs of the last century.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Breaking our Baccalaureate Addiction

April 8th, 2014

It’s not that kids aren’t “college material,” but that the bachelor’s degree is increasingly immaterial

Recently, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute kicked up a lot of attention with his piece on why we should be telling more kids that they aren’t college material.

Central to his argument was that career technical education (CTE) – or teaching and learning that provides students with the academic, technical and employability skills they need to access the careers of their choice – is a more viable option than a four-year degree for many, and one in which we should be counseling more students.

On this point, I agree with Petrilli 100 percent. CTE is one of the best kept secrets out there. Students taking CTE sequences are more likely to graduate high school (at rates upward of 90%, well above the national average) because they find value in the authenticity and relevance CTE brings to their learning.

CTE students are also more likely to go on to “college,” with 75% of graduates who took at least three CTE courses enrolling in postsecondary education within two years. They have the added advantages of real-world experience from work-based learning and career exploration opportunities, and have unique access to mentors and resources to help them chart their future beyond the traditional college prep counseling.

On top of that, completers of CTE postsecondary programs are more likely to be employed than those completing an academic-focused program. Eighty-six percent of postsecondary students completing an associate’s degree in a CTE field of study, for example, are still employed five years later, compared to 78.6 percent of those completing an associate’s degree in an academic field of study.  They are filling the skills mismatch, and not fast enough for many employers in the health services, manufacturing and IT sectors.

To summarize, CTE keeps students in school and puts them on a pathway to success. Yay CTE! CTE for all!

So, what’s the problem?

My problem is this: While I appreciate positive attention for CTE, I believe Petrilli did CTE a major disservice with his piece. By setting up CTE as the option for students who are not “college material” he ultimately undermined the value CTE has for all students. And, perhaps more importantly, he reinforced the image problem the CTE community has to deal with every day: CTE remains the place you put kids who just can’t make it to college.

As long as CTE is framed as the non-college option, rather than a pathway to a broader set of college options, we are perpetuating CTE as an inferior, rather than an equally viable (and more reliable), choice.

Despite a decade of efforts to raise the rigor and quality of CTE programs by anchoring them in 21st century knowledge and skills and building stronger linkages between secondary and postsecondary programs through dual/concurrent enrollment, early college programs and other mechanisms, CTE is still not something many parents want for their kids. The stigma of old-school “voc-ed” is a hard one to shake.

So allow me to reframe the discussion. Instead of talking about CTE as being solely for those who can’t be successful in four-year programs, let’s talk about how we can break our country’s addiction to (and reverence for) the bachelor’s degree.

As Petrilli clearly lays out, the notion that a four-year degree is the only option is at best outdated and at worst sets up false expectations for too many students (as evidenced by high remediation, low degree completion and increasing debt). It no longer makes sense to put all of our eggs in the four-year basket. There are many other postsecondary pathways that lead to a family-sustaining wage, job security and mobility that are not being presented as a realistic option to enough of today’s students, and therefore, not being taken advantage of enough.

It is incumbent upon us to encourage more students to engage in these opportunities. And when I say more students, I don’t just mean poor or minority students, but also suburban or higher-income students who go on to a four-year degree because that’s just how it’s done in their communities, regardless of their actual career interests. We need to redefine college so technical colleges, community colleges and the other postsecondary institutions don’t continue to get the short shrift in the minds of parents, students and policymakers.

Finally, we need to flip the system so “career” comes before “college.” Students’ career aspirations should dictate their postsecondary pathways rather than the other way around. It’s not easy, it’s not clean – in fact, it’s a paradigm shift – but it’s what it’s going to take to get our economy back on track and all students their shot at the American dream.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

 

 

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