Posts Tagged ‘Postsecondary Attainment’

Exploring Area Technical Centers: Best Practices for Aligning ATCs to Advance Postsecondary Attainment Goals

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Advance CTE’s recent report on area technical centers (ATCs), Building Better Futures for Learners: A 50-State Analysis of Area Technical Centers, revealed that ATCs have a notable footprint in credential and non-degree programs for postsecondary learners and an active role in contributing to state postsecondary attainment goals. However, the extent of their impact varies across states and territories and is strongly influenced by policymaker awareness and systems alignment.  

At the time of our report, forty-five states had set a goal to increase postsecondary attainment. This trend is largely inspired by the work of Lumina Foundation, a national leader in advancing access and outcomes in postsecondary education that set a national goal of equipping at least 60 percent of the working age population with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. Expanding access to and providing seamless transitions for learners in their journey to postsecondary attainment is critical to an equitable national economic recovery. 

This post will focus on highlighting several states that offer best practices to elevate the role of ATCs in postsecondary attainment through state oversight, the role of ATCS in statewide postsecondary attainment plans, and statewide systems alignment.

For a broader breakdown of topline messages from this report and implications for states, please read our most recent post on Medium

State Oversight 

One of the report’s key policy recommendations is for states to improve the awareness, accountability, and alignment of ATCs through the restoration or enhancement of state oversight of these institutions. 

Utah and Oklahoma provide strong examples of the benefits of robust state oversight and positioning of ATCs. Utah’s area technical centers, known as technical colleges, were recently elevated and designated as eight of the state’s 16 postsecondary institutions under the Utah System of Higher Education. This positioning was a solution to years of legislative changes that had created two systems of higher education, leading to legal and learner navigation difficulties that limited the potential of ATCs. This new position for ATCs enhances learner equity by providing well-aligned pathways from ATCs to four-year postsecondary institutions and uniform credit transfer policies. 

Oklahoma has a separate state agency, known as CareerTech, that oversees all aspects of their CTE delivery system, including 29 ATCs known as technology centers. In addition to serving as the fiscal agent for the state’s robust allotment of CTE funding, the agency also provides oversight of program quality. CareerTech partners with other state agencies to ensure that the needs of underserved populations, including the Indian Education Board and Tribal Reintegration Program and the Department of Veteran Affairs are met. 

The Role of ATCs in State Postsecondary Attainment Plans

While most states reported that ATCs were not specifically mentioned in postsecondary attainment plans, the vast majority strongly agreed or agreed that their ATCs were active contributors to postsecondary attainment goals. 

Delaware’s ATCs have a significant role in supporting the state’s postsecondary attainment goal through the administration of the state Registered Apprenticeship program. This program constitutes almost 70 percent of the state’s vocational/technical school district postsecondary and adult population and allows ATCs to be strongly connected and responsive to state workforce needs despite predominantly local oversight. 

Florida’s ATCs, known as technical colleges, are strongly tied to the state’s attainment goals. Because Florida’s ATCs are accredited by the Council on Occupational Education, they must maintain a 60 percent learner completion rate and 70 percent licensure exam pass rate, effectively exceeding the state’s postsecondary attainment goal. Technical colleges are the focal point of a statewide Get There campaign that combines program grants colleges with a public relations campaign to promote postsecondary attainment through a short-term credential of value. 

High-quality and timely state-level data collection is key to accurate measurement and evaluation of the impact of ATCs on postsecondary attainment. In Oklahoma, the state’s technology centers contributed over 19,000 industry-recognized credentials with an 88 percent adult learner program completion rate in FY2018. Florida reported over 9,000 earned industry certifications and over 14,400 full program completers through its technical colleges for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Statewide Systems Alignment

While 27 states reported providing some level of programming at ATCs to postsecondary learners, their responses also indicated that ATCs are often disconnected from the larger postsecondary system. A few states stand out as exemplars in intentional alignment between ATCs and higher education systems. 

Ohio includes its ATCs, known as Ohio technical centers (OTCs), in a statewide articulation and transfer agreement established in 2007 known as Career-Technical Credit Transfer. When combined with Career-Technical Assurance Guides that advise learners through the transfer process, these tools give learners and their credits seamless and equitable pathways from OTCs to other postsecondary institutions. Numerous OTCs have also partnered with regional community colleges to design coursework sequences that span both institutions for improved program quality and alignment. 

Florida’s technical colleges are required to achieve seamless articulation and transfer agreements under state law. Technical and state colleges must create regional career pathway articulation agreements that align a technical college program with a degree program at a state college. Clock hours must also be transferable to the aligned state college degree program. 

Effective alignment practices also extend to the relationship between ATCs and workforce development systems. In Delaware, ATCs are members of a statewide CTE alliance that includes representatives from vocational/technical school districts, the technical and community college system, and other state agencies and workforce partners. Collaborative efforts from this alliance expanded the state’s Registered Apprenticeship programs to include pre-apprenticeship and secondary learners, and more career pathways that span multiple institutions. 

We hope these examples provide valuable insight on potential reforms for states to leverage and elevate ATCs. Visit our microsite to access full state profiles for the five states mentioned in this post. A future post will explore the potential use of ATC in economic recovery plans and highlight innovative partnerships in states. 

Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate Communications and State Engagement 

By Stacy Whitehouse in Advance CTE Resources, Publications
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New Advance CTE Report: Developing Credit for Prior Learning Policies to Support Postsecondary Attainment for Every Learner

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

College enrollment has increased over the past 10 years and is projected to continue growing over the next 10 for both full- and part-time students. At the same time, institutions face low retention and graduation rates. One policy that shows promise in increasing completion rates, especially for adult learners and those who served in the military, is credit for prior learning (CPL). CPL practices have been found increase access to and the affordability of postsecondary opportunities for a variety of learners — particularly adults and members of the military.

CPL policies can be found at the state, postsecondary system or institutional levels — and most often a combination of the three. Overall, control of CPL implementation tends to be greater at the local level than at the state level. Although creation and implementation of a formalized CPL policy typically falls to the state’s higher education system or the individual institution, state-level leadership can play a vital role in building support and momentum among stakeholders. 

To help states explore the significant impact of CPL and what their role should be in supporting these opportunities, Advance CTE- with support from the Joyce Foundation- examined research and best practices in Developing Credit for Prior Learning Policies to Support Postsecondary Attainment for Every Learner. This report features data on the benefits of CPL for learners, as well as best practices in Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Tennessee and Virginia across topics such as CPL for military service members, portability of credits, building in apprenticeships and industry recognized credentials in CPL, and communicating about CPL opportunities.

The report concludes with recommendations for how states can support CPL with and without statute. The strongest action a state can take is to enact a state statute that calls for implementation of CPL in all public two- and four-year institutions. Minimally, every state should have statewide policies that address CPL’s quality and consistency and ideally make implementation mandatory at each public institution. Aside from state statute, the report recommends that CPL should be incorporated into the state’s broad postsecondary agenda in the following ways:

  • Visible state leaders, such as State CTE Directors, governors and state higher education officials, should elevate CPL to be part of the conversation around education and workforce development.
  • The state should lead the efforts to publicize what CPL opportunities exist.
  • The state should facilitate coordination among the state, system and institutional levels in how CPL policies are developed and implemented.

The full report can be found here and a webinar on CPL featuring CPL leaders from Virginia and Louisiana can be accessed here.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Advance CTE Resources
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Utah Valley University Charges Forward as a Dual-Role Community College and University

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Numerous states have begun to allow community colleges to grant four-year degrees. These changes have led to concerns over “credential creep,” where institution leaders push for the increased perception of prestige that advanced postsecondary degree offerings provide them, and neglect their CTE programs. This article from Inside Higher Ed highlights the work being done at Utah Valley University to maintain focus on providing high-quality degree programs, whether they be two- or four-year degrees.

The institution implemented a “structured enrollment” approach to preserve its open-door admissions policy. This approach enrolls underprepared students in one-year certificate programs that include numerous student support services. From there, students can enroll in a two-year degree program and eventually a four-year program, all within the same institution. “The certificates and degrees stack on top of each other, thus all credits move up with the student. For example, all of the certificate classes are required in the associate’s degree, and all of the associate classes are required in the bachelor’s degree,” a university spokesman said via email. “If the student doesn’t do well in the certificate track, university counselors will circle back to try to find a better fit.”

Report Offers Recommendations for Using Data and Evidence to Improve Student Outcomes

Colleges have long been working to use data more effectively to analyze and improve student outcomes. However, these efforts have often been the responsibility of individual institutions or systems, and are dependent on the resources available for data analysis and new technologies. A new report from Results for America offers recommendations for state governments to become more involved in these initiatives. Their recommendations fall into three categories:

  1. Improve measures of student success
    • Improve the accuracy of graduation rates
    • Publish employment outcomes by major
    • Develop measures of learning and civic outcomes
  2. Help colleges act on and analyze data
    • Invest in the data capacities of colleges
    • Generate evidence of what works
    • Kickstart evidence-based improvements
  3. Align resources behind student success
    • Make payoffs clear and certain
    • Prioritize equity
    • Consider post-graduation goals
    • Consider additional strategies to help low-performing colleges

White Paper Examines Overlap between Afterschool Programs and Workforce Development

The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) recently published a new white paper highlighting the shared goals and opportunities for collaboration between afterschool programs and workforce development initiatives. While both youth and workforce development initiatives implement programs and activities to help youth develop skills and competencies for the world of work, they often operate in separate and disconnected silos.

For example, afterschool programs have long focused on building the social and emotional skills of students, skills which also contribute to employability readiness. “Participation in high-quality afterschool programs has a positive impact on problem-solving, conflict resolution, self-control, leadership, and responsible decision-making, all of which are included within the employability and [social emotional learning] frameworks.” If efforts are better aligned and resources more coordinated, more of this training can be implemented.

The white paper examines case studies in Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois and from those extrapolates recommendations for further collaboration between the two types of initiatives.

Odds and Ends

This report from AEI examines common barriers for providing high-quality CTE at community colleges and suggest five strategies for overcoming those barriers, most of which are structural and policy barriers, but also include the perceived stigma of CTE.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) recently launched this video highlighting the problem of “The Forgotten 500,000” – the 500,000 students who are in the top half of their high school classes but do not go on to complete a postsecondary certificate or credential. Among other recommendations, CEW believes this problem can be solved by tying education more deliberately to career pathways.

The American Institutes for Research released this infographic highlighting the importance of using CTE as a strategy for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities who are CTE concentrators are five percent more likely to graduate high school on time and 20 percent more likely to be employed after graduation.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

By Ashleigh McFadden in Research
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State Policy Update: How States Are Working to Increase Credential Attainment

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Strategies Include Promise Programs, Reverse Transfer and Postsecondary Credential Attainment Goals

The demand for Bachelor’s degrees may be overinflated in the labor market, but the number of jobs requiring at least some postsecondary education or training is growing. According to the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, nearly all of the jobs created since the recession have gone to workers with more than a high school education. As such, many states have adopted programs and policies since the recovery to help learners obtain the knowledge, skills and credentials necessary to succeed in today’s workforce.

This month, California joined the ranks of Tennessee, Oregon, Rhode Island and New York after Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation into law establishing a California Promise program. The program is designed to reduce barriers to entry for California college-goers by providing tuition-free community college to first-time students who enroll full time and complete a FAFSA form. Under the legislation, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office would be responsible for administering the program and developing a funding formula to support the program’s objectives.

Although the California Promise program has been signed into law, the program is still subject to state appropriations. The California General Assembly estimates that the program would serve 19,000 students at a total cost of $31.1 million.

Meanwhile, Mississippi is the latest state to help Bachelor’s degree candidates obtain associate’s degrees. The program, called Complete 2 Compete, aims to increase the number of Mississippians with postsecondary credentials by identifying students who either have completed enough credits to qualify for an associate’s degree or are on the cusp of completing a degree. Many postsecondary and adult learners with their sights set on a four-year degree don’t realize that they’ve already earned enough credits for another award. Under the program, some 28,000 students already qualify to receive an associate’s degree without any further education or training.

Increasingly, states are looking to reverse transfer programs like Mississippi’s to help postsecondary and adult learners get recognition for the education they have completed. According to research from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE), these programs help struggling students who would not otherwise complete a four-year degree earn a postsecondary credential.

States Set Ambitious Postsecondary Attainment Goals

Separately, the number of states with ambitious goals for postsecondary credential attainment is growing. In September, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education released an update to the 2012 Master Plan, setting a postsecondary credential attainment goal of 66 percent of adults by 2025. The goal is accompanied by four strategies to increase learner success in Colorado colleges and universities:

  1. Increase credential completion
  2. Erase equity gaps
  3. Improve student success
  4. Invest in affordability and innovation

 

New Jersey and Vermont also released goals to increase postsecondary credential attainment to 65 percent and 70 percent respectively by 2025. In New Jersey, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Education jointly launched a new campaign to help increase the credentialed population. The campaign, titled “65 by ’25: Many Paths, One Future,” will seek to engage colleges, universities, businesses and state officials through regional summits to devise strategic plans to achieve the goal.

In Vermont, Governor Phil Scott announced the launch of a new initiative called 70x2025vt. With guidance and support from a 25-member council of employers, educators and state officials, the initiative aims to create a college-going culture, remove barriers to access for underrepresented populations, increase college preparedness, and ensure high school students enroll in and succeed in postsecondary education. To monitor progress along the way, Vermont has identified six indicators of progress, including college aspiration and postsecondary/career integration experiences (including work-based learning).

The need for skilled workers has grown in the wake of the Great Recession. Now, more than ever, postsecondary education and training is a prerequisite for a family-sustaining job. With the recovery of the national economy, these states are working overtime to help their residents gain the skills they need for career success.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
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