Posts Tagged ‘closing the gap’

Education Not Working For All

Monday, 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:

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:

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 

By Jade Richards in News, Public Policy, Research, Resources
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