States Support Alternative Methods to Earn College Credit and Degrees

August 8th, 2019

The majority of 2019 legislative sessions have come to a close. During these legislative sessions, states enacted legislation to support alternative methods to obtain college credit and degrees.

Awarding College Credit Through Apprenticeships

Some states are exploring how to leverage apprenticeships to award college credit to learners. For instance, the Colorado legislature passed HB19-1294 in May to require the chief administrative officer of the Colorado Community College System to convene a working group to determine the best way to transfer construction industry registered apprenticeship program credit to college credit. If possible, the working group must have representatives from community colleges, area technical schools, local district colleges, relevant four-year institutions and applicable labor organizations. The working group must consider the possibility of apprenticeship program coursework culminating in significant progress towards a degree, among other considerations.

In June, the Connecticut legislature passed SB607, which requires the Labor Department and the Board of Regents for Higher Education to jointly establish nontraditional pathways to earning a bachelor’s degree through the inclusion of credits earned through apprenticeships.

Expanding Access to Credit for Prior Learning Opportunities

The Utah legislature passed HB45 in April. HB45 directs the State Board of Regents to establish policies that award learners credit for prior learning. The established policies must provide standards for accepted forms of prior learning assessments and the transferability of prior learning assessment credits between institutions, among other standards. To learn more about promising practices to advance credit for prior learning opportunities for each learner, read Advance CTE’s Developing Credit for Prior Learning Policies to Support Postsecondary Attainment for Every Learner report.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

Using Advance CTE’s Policy Benchmark Tool to Address Gaps in “Policy” and Practice

August 7th, 2019

Guest Post by Whitney Thompson, Senior Director for Career and Technical Education, Illinois Community College Board

As the third largest community college system in the country, Illinois community colleges serve over 600,000 residents each year in credit, noncredit and continuing education courses. The Illinois community college system, made up of 48 colleges, has over 4,265 active, approved CTE programs spanning across all 16 Career Clusters®, which provide high-quality, accessible, cost-effective educational opportunities to the entire state.

In early 2018, Illinois embarked on the Postsecondary High-Quality CTE Program Approval Project. The goals are to assess existing program development and approval processes, align approval and review systems, identify technical assistance needs across the system, and share lessons learned within the broader CTE community.

This project was initiated just after Illinois went without a budget for close to two years. To add, investments in higher education over the last decade have been decreasing, or at best stagnant. Yet, thriving, modernized CTE programs across Illinois are critical to meeting the state’s goal of 60 percent of all Illinoisans with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025.

What We Found

Because of Illinois’ challenging fiscal predicament, the colleges were facing significant staff turnover. With this, the system was experiencing a hemorrhaging of institutional knowledge. One major goal of this project, although not as originally designed, became to document practices and processes to build institutional knowledge.

The loss of institutional knowledge was also recognized among Board staff. During the self-assessment of our policies using Advance CTE’s Policy Benchmark Tool, we found that in practice we were upholding quality metrics, but there were a number of critical gaps in “policy” – documented in our Program Approval Manual. In the end, these high-quality practices were being upheld by one to two staff.

In examining our policies at the state level, we found two areas that were “building” or “promising” but not “strong:” secondary-postsecondary alignment and experiential learning. After our state-level assessment, we brought together ten participating colleges to conduct assessments of their own program approval policies and practices, with an additional lens of how they went about developing programs.

While there was some initial resistance to a couple of the elements, namely requiring secondary articulation for all CTE programs and identifying a common set of statewide standards for CTE, largely, the colleges felt it to be a helpful exercise. Similar to our assessment at the state level, the colleges also found that secondary-postsecondary alignment and experiential learning did not meet the “strong” benchmark as desired. Additionally, a few colleges noted that the use of labor market information could be strengthened in the program development process, but more education and training may be needed for staff in retrieving and analyzing this data

Alongside these examinations of our program approval policies and practices, we embarked on research to better understand program development at the campus level. We engaged our partners at the Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support to conduct fieldwork on each college’s program development process as well as identify needs for technical assistance. Their fieldwork produced a list of areas in which the Board can help the colleges be more systematic in their program development activities and documentation.

Next Steps

While the participating colleges were steadfast for change, we are finding that there may not be enough buy-in from the system at this time to completely revise the program approval policy due to its grounding in administrative rules. However, in the midst of our project, Congress passed Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), allowing us to leverage several principles to encourage each and every college to take another step forward.

Specifically, we will be leveraging Perkins V’s calls for smooth transitions (including multiple entry and exit points in programs of study), equitable access and outcomes, alignment to secondary programs, and expanding work-based learning. We look forward to continuing this work well into the future as support for CTE is echoed nationally. Advance CTE has been instrumental in giving CTE a voice on the national stage and supporting states in fostering high-quality CTE programs across the P-20 continuum.

To learn more about Illinois Postsecondary CTE visit:

This Week in CTE

August 2nd, 2019



Congress Reaches Budget Deal

On Thursday, the Senate passed a $2.7 trillion budget agreement in a 67-28 vote. Through this agreement, the non-defense discretionary funding cap for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 will increase by $27 billion and defense spending will increase by $22 billion. Each of those levels will go up by $2.5 billion in FY21. 

This follows last week’s budgetary movement when Congressional and Administration leaders worked together on an agreement to raise spending levels for FY20 and FY21, as well as suspend the debt ceiling. The House then passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R. 3877), a budget deal that raises the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary funding for FY20 and FY21 and suspends the debt limit through July 31, 2021. 

Now, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) will determine the division of funds between the 12 government funding bills, and the Committee will prepare each of the 12 funding bills to be voted on following August recess before government funding runs out on September 30.

To make sure you get the latest news and resources about federal policy that affects Career Technical Education (CTE), sign up for our Legislative Updates!


Advance CTE’s Kate Kreamer on the Purpose and Definition of CTE

Fordham Institute brought together a panel of CTE experts to discuss, Is Career and Technical Education Having an Identity Crisis? Kate Kreamer the Deputy Executive Director of Advance CTE contributed her thoughts explaining how CTE has evolved. Watch this video clip to hear her response. 

Watch the video here:


Stakeholders and Perkins V: Meaningful Engagement for Student Success

Similar to Perkins IV, Perkins V maintains the requirement that the state plan is developed in consultation with a number of entities and in some cases, identifies when this consultation must occur and for what purpose. In addition, Perkins V introduces some new stakeholder engagement and public comment requirements. This guide from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) contains specific strategies on how best to connect with, speak to and learn from stakeholders with a unique perspective. This tool provides detailed guidance on stakeholder engagement strategies; state examples of potential strategies; stakeholder-specific tactics; planning templates and tools; a breakdown of stakeholders with whom states are required to engage under different provisions of Perkins V; and lists of additional stakeholder engagement resources.

Read the full guide here.

Congress Reaches Budget Deal, Congressional Briefings on JOBS Act

August 1st, 2019

This week, the Senate passed a $2.7 trillion budget agreement. Read below to learn more about the budget deal, as well as recent briefings on Career Technical Education (CTE) and cybersecurity, agriculture and short-term job-training programs. 

Congress Reaches Budget Deal

Today, the Senate passed a $2.7 trillion budget agreement in a 67-28 vote. Through this agreement, the non-defense discretionary funding cap for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 will increase by $27 billion and defense spending will increase by $22 billion. Each of those levels will go up by $2.5 billion in FY21. 

This follows last week’s budgetary movement, when Congressional and Administration leaders worked together on an agreement to raise spending levels for FY20 and FY21, as well as suspend the debt ceiling. The House then passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R. 3877), a budget deal that raises the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary funding for FY20 and FY21 and  suspends the debt limit through July 31, 2021. 

Now, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) will determine the division of funds between the 12 government funding bills, and the Committee will prepare each of the 12 funding bills to be voted on following August recess before government funding runs out on September 30.

House and Senate Panels Discuss Short-Term Programs and JOBS Act

This week, both the House and Senate held briefings on short-term job-focused college programs. The panel, sponsored by Opportunity America, along with Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), discussed the ways that high-quality short-term programs open up new opportunities for career growth. The group explained that short-term credentialing programs can prepare individuals for in-demand and high-wage careers, improving career opportunities for the student and filling employer vacancies. A former Virginia Community College System student who took advantage of such program explained that, as a result, he has “a career instead of a job.” 

The panel also discussed the benefits of expanding Pell Grant eligibility to short-term job training programs, as outlined in the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 839 and H.R. 3497). This legislation would expand Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality short-term postsecondary programs. Eligible short-term programs would have to be at least 150 clock hours over at least eight weeks, meet local or regional labor market needs, articulate to institutional credit and provide students with a recognized postsecondary license, certification or credential.

Senate CTE Caucus Holds Briefings on Cybersecurity and Agriculture

The Congressional Career Technical Education (CTE) and Cybersecurity Caucuses held a joint briefing last week on “Building a Culture of Security: Integrating Cyber into Career and Technical Education.” The event featured a panel of cybersecurity and CTE experts speaking about the importance of integrating cybersecurity education into CTE programs, creating jobs in the cybersecurity field and anticipating future security threats to the country. When asked about public misconceptions regarding the skills needed to enter the field, panelists noted that there are a variety of cybersecurity career opportunities outside of the traditional computer science pathway.

The Senate CTE Caucus also held a briefing last week on “Agricultural Education and the National FFA Organization.” Current and past National Future Farmers of America (FFA) students and educators spoke about the impact of agricultural education on their understanding of food and health. The current students also shared that their CTE and FFA experiences gave them optimism about finding the job of their choice in their area of interest.  Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Co-Chair of the Senate CTE Caucus, spoke about the important role of the agricultural industry, and encouraged today’s students to continue to follow their passions while in school. 

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate and Jade Richards, Policy Fellow

Perkins V: How can states strengthen the CTE educator pipeline?

August 1st, 2019

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) gives states an important opportunity to examine their pipeline of Career Technical Education (CTE) educators. The new law requires states and local recipients of Perkins funds to address how they are recruiting, preparing, and retaining CTE educators and providing them with professional development in their state plans and local applications. In addition, resources must be dedicated to these efforts. How can states strengthen the CTE educator pipeline when there is a nationwide shortage of CTE educators? Check out the resources and policy profiles below to learn about this challenge and how states are addressing it.

FACT SHEET: CTE Teacher and Faculty Shortages: This fact sheet from Advance CTE provides an overview of the alignment between CTE teacher and faculty shortages and labor market demands.

REPORT: The State of Career Technical Education: Increasing Access to Industry Experts in High Schools: This report from Advance CTE, in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at AIR, draws on data from two national surveys to examine the shortage of industry experts in secondary classrooms and how to address it.

BRIEF: CTE on the Frontier: Strengthening the Rural CTE Teacher Pipeline: This brief explores one of the most pressing challenges rural schools and institutions face: strengthening the pipeline of qualified CTE teachers and faculty.


  • South Dakota: CTE Teacher Certification Rule Changes: To address the teacher shortage, the South Dakota State Board of Education changed administrative rules for Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher certification in November 2015, introducing more consistency and flexibility to the certification process.
  • Texas: Community College Petrochemical Initiative: The Community College Petrochemical Initiative in Texas addresses workforce development in the Texas Gulf Coast and includes community college faculty externships with industry employees.

Looking for additional resources? Please be sure to check out the Learning that Works Resource Center.

Welcome Jade Richards, Summer 2019 Policy Fellow

July 31st, 2019

My name is Jade Richards and I am very excited to join Advance CTE over the Summer. During my time I will be working as a Policy Fellow supporting the organization’s policy and communication priorities. 

A recent graduate from American University, I come with a fresh perspective and a bold eagerness to effect Advance CTE’s mission. Over the past five years I have worked with a range of organizations, including Toyota Government Affairs, the United States Senate through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the Aspen Institute. These experiences allowed me to develop a deep insight of how public-private partnerships influence the policy-making process. My experiences also informed my abilities to think critically, problem solve, and be a dynamic asset to teams. 

Recently, I also worked for a year as a STEM enrichment teacher at an elementary school. This experience was pivotal as it provided first-hand exposure to some of the challenges and successes of urban schooling. As a long-time advocate for equitable and high-quality education, I look forward to the opportunity to further develop my understanding of education policy while at Advance CTE. 

By Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

How Higher Education Can Support Adult Learners

July 31st, 2019

While most people think of the typical college student as coming directly from high school, the reality is that 38 percent of college students today are 25 or older. On July 9, Higher Learning Advocates organized a panel titled Pathways to Success: Supporting Today’s Adult Students to discuss the unique challenges adult learners face in postsecondary education and potential solutions.

The panel included:

  • Goldie Blumenstyk, Senior Writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education 
  • Stephanie Shaw, Executive Director of Eastern Ohio Education Partnership
  • Maureen Elias, Veteran Student
  • Chris Bustamante, Bustamante Consulting, Arizona
  • Eric Bing, CEO of The College of Healthcare Professions, Texas

Many high school graduates enter the workforce directly instead of pursuing postsecondary education, and with today’s tight labor market, many can find high-wage employment without an advanced degree. However, as industries change and labor markets shift, workers will need additional, more specialized skills to stay competitive. Programs like the Eastern Ohio Education Partnership help adults obtain degrees and certifications so they can advance in the workforce and sustain high-wage, high-skill and in-demand employment.

Entering postsecondary education as an adult comes with challenges. One of Elias’s biggest concerns as a mother was access to not only affordable childcare, but childcare offered at times after the normal work day to accommodate her night classes. She is not alone: 26 percent of adult students are parents, and access to childcare makes it difficult to finish a degree or certification. Schedule flexibility is important even for adult students without children, as over half work while in college

So what can be done to better address the needs of adult learners? Postsecondary institutions and policymakers can create flexibility in financial aid to allow more adults to afford education. This option is part of the reason The College of Healthcare Professions is able to educate so many adult learners. Universities can also address the needs of adult learners by accepting transfer credits earned at a previous institution toward a degree or certificate. Beyond these institutional changes, there are ways to make adult students feel more included on campus with small adjustments. Making campuses feel more family friendly is a great way to get adult students integrated. This can be as simple as encouraging members to bring their family along to events hosted by different student organizations.

One of Elias’s core suggestions was mandatory career advising for students who receive any money from the federal government. This ensures students know what courses they need to take in order to graduate on time with their intended major and that federal dollars support individuals who will be career ready when they graduate. Understanding the challenges adult students face today creates space to develop solutions for a better experience in higher education.

Jordan Dreisbach, Policy Intern

Education Not Working For All

July 29th, 2019

The national postsecondary attainment rate across all groups of students has steadily increased over the past decade. Despite this positive trend, a recent research paper by the Center for American Progress found persisting gaps in students’ access to higher education. 

Using nationally representative data to investigate how degree attainment rates for adults compare in the U.S., the report looked at how geography and socioeconomic factors continue to impact students’ access to the postsecondary level. In the report, researchers found that despite an overall 20 percent increase in attainment in the last decade, the distribution of growth is uneven across the country. National patterns reflect lower attainment rates in rural areas and highly stratified rates – with the largest attainment gaps between racial and ethnic groups – in urban areas. This pattern highlights two significant insights:

  • Students in rural counties and low-income students in urban ones are being left behind when it comes to accessing postsecondary education and a pathway to the middle-class.
  • Though community and regional colleges serve the majority of rural residents and low-income students, funding for these institutions has historically lagged and only 50 percent of pre-recession funding have been recovered. This is just one of the challenges that limit the ability of these institutions to continue being an effective route to a good paying job.

Earlier this year, researchers at Brookings explored the landscape of the millions of young adults who are out of work. In their study, researchers used cluster analysis to segment out-of-work young adults into five groups, including:

  • 18-21 year olds with a high school diploma or less; 
  • 22-24 year olds with a high school diploma or less;
  • 18-21 year olds with at least some education beyond high school;
  • 22-24 year olds with at least some education beyond high school; and 
  • 22-24 year olds with Bachelor’s degrees

Clusters were categorized based on similarities in students’ work history, educational attainment, school enrollment, English language proficiency and family status. Specific policy recommendations were provided for each group, such as utilizing re-engagement centers with  those who have a high school diploma or less. Work-based learning and certification attainment were the only recommendations consistent across all five clusters.

Meeting the Needs of Those Left Behind 

Community colleges have traditionally worked to meet the needs of underserved students and dislocated workers. With skills-training and work-based learning gaining popularity, these institutions are also increasingly strained for resources, especially since they are in the midst of a historic funding disadvantage. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) highlights this challenge in their report on The Evolving Mission of Workforce Development in the Community College.

Today, over two-thirds of states’ accountability and funding measures are tied to completed degrees or certificates. This has led to many community colleges integrating guided pathway programs into their systems as a means to improve attainment rates. 

The CCRC research points out that noncredit programs are also increasing in popularity, as they are often shorter, more flexible and responsive to industry needs. While for-credit programs may take up to two years to launch a new program in response to student and local market needs, noncredit programs can do so in a matter of weeks or months. Because they are also shorter and tend to target specific skills needed in an industry, students often see them as a more affordable investment in their time, education and career development.

However, according to a recent report by Opportunity America, these programs can come with disadvantages, namely, they do not provide college credit or financial aid to their students. 

Given that the majority of students who are enrolling in these programs are out-of-work and/or low-income, many advocates are calling for legislation like the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS Act), which would extend eligibility for Pell Grant funding to short term credit and noncredit programs that meet several key criteria. Proponents also argue that federal education policies need to keep pace with the changing dynamics of the workforce and postsecondary systems, to support life-long learners by aligning credited and non-credited programs.


Jade Richards, Policy Fellow 

This Week in CTE

July 26th, 2019



House Holds Hearing on International Apprenticeship Models

The House Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee held a hearing on “Scaling Up Apprenticeships: Building on the Success of International Apprenticeship Models.”

In their opening remarks, both Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis (D-CA) and Ranking Member Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) discussed the need for innovative apprenticeship models that provide students with academic skills and work-based learning experience. Witnesses shared apprenticeship models in Australia, Germany and Switzerland. 

To make sure you get the latest news and resources about federal policy that affects Career Technical Education (CTE), sign up for our Legislative Updates!


Teacher Recruitment and Retention

The U.S. Department of Education Teacher Shortage survey data tool reveals that 31 states are currently identifying a critical shortage of Career Technical Education educators. Check out the most recent video on teacher recruitment and retention here. It features two organizations who are conducting groundbreaking work around teacher recruitment, retention, and professional development in CTE.  Use the information to spark ideas in the context of your Perkins V state plan.

You can access the video discussion guide here.


Practitioner Perspectives On Equity In Career And Technical Education 

MDRC Center for Effective Career and Technical Education released a new brief on equity titled Practitioner Perspectives On Equity In Career And Technical Education. In the spring of 2019, MDRC invited practitioners from innovative CTE programs to discuss questions of equity. This policy brief summarizes the most common equity challenges that were raised in the discussion, along with ideas that emerged for how to address them. It concludes with a discussion of how research can help practitioners address equity, and how policymakers can support equitable delivery and outcomes.

Read the brief here

Perkins V: How can states advance equity in CTE?

July 25th, 2019

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) provides states with an important opportunity to dive into data on Career Technical Education (CTE), identify disparities and gaps in performance, and begin to address them. The new law emphasizes the importance of engaging in this process by maintaining the required disaggregation of performance data by student populations, requiring additional disaggregation by CTE program or Career Cluster, and requiring state plans and local applications to address how disparities and gaps in performance will be addressed. In addition, the law includes a new purpose focused on how CTE can better serve special population and an expanded definition of special populations that aligns with the Every Student Succeeds Act. As Perkins V implementation begins, how can states advance equity in CTE? Check out the briefs in the Making Good on the Promise series below to learn about CTE’s equity challenges, strategies to confront inequities and rebuild trust, and how to expand CTE opportunities for each learner.

BRIEF: Understanding the CTE Equity Challenge: This brief, the first in the Making Good on the Promise series, attempts to confront the negative aspects of CTE’s legacy and define the key challenges learners face today.

BRIEF: Examining Access and Achievement Gaps: This brief, the second in the Making Good on the Promise series, lays out a strategy for state and local policymakers to confront historical inequities by using data to examine and address gaps.

BRIEF: Building Trust to Promote Equity in CTE: This brief, the third in the Making Good on the Promise series, maps out steps state leaders can take to rebuild trust in marginalized communities that CTE historically failed to serve equitably.

BRIEF: Expanding Access to Opportunity: This brief, the fourth in the Making Good on the Promise series, examines strategies state leaders can use to expand CTE opportunities for each learner.


Looking for additional resources? Please be sure to check out the Learning that Works Resource Center.