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Learn from What’s Working: National Scan of Post-Secondary Attainment Practices

The bipartisan HB664 was signed into law in 2019 to set an official goal of 2 million residents ages 25 to 44 with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. To support this goal, the ncIMPACT Initiative produced a National Scan of Postsecondary Attainment Practices because replicating and adapting innovative and effective practices from other communities provides a way to “flatten the learning curve” and accelerate progress.



As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that our economy and the types of jobs available to workers are shifting. The growing sectors and jobs created increasingly require more than a high school education. Currently, only 49% of North Carolinians between the ages 25 and 44 have more than a high school education. By 2030, over two-thirds of jobs in the state will require that level of education. This “skills gap” prompted lawmakers to adopt a statewide attainment goal and do more to promote post-secondary education for North Carolinians. The bipartisan HB664 was signed into law in 2019 to set an official goal of 2 million residents ages 25 to 44 with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030.

To support this goal, the ncIMPACT Initiative produced a National Scan of Postsecondary Attainment Practices because replicating and adapting innovative and effective practices from other communities provides a way to “flatten the learning curve” and accelerate progress. Through its community-based work across North Carolina, ncIMPACT Initiative learned the benefits of offering local collaboratives concrete examples of recognized practices that lead to impact. You can read the full document linked above and examples of the practices highlighted are provided below.

Supporting College Students’ Economic Security and Basic Needs

While college students are not the typical example of a person living in poverty or on the economic edge, studies show that 25% of community college students live in poverty. In fact, less than 20% of students fit the “traditional” profile of a student who can focus solely on their education because their parents cover all expenses. Thus, it is critical that educational institutions help provide resources to support their students economically, so they can achieve their best educationally.

Several institutions across the nation work with community partners to provide students with the resources they need to succeed. One of the most important resources institutions can offer is access to food. Swipe Out Hunger is a collection of university dining halls nationwide that preserves extra food to provide for students struggling with food insecurity. Other institutions provide additional income support to give students extra financial support to finish their degree. The SingleStop organization helps connect students with unclaimed resources for which they are eligible and currently works with two universities and eight community colleges in North Carolina. United Way’s SparkPoint centers also work with community college students to help them locate community resources and offer financial coaching sessions.

 

Project QUEST

Another important aspect of meeting the two million goal by 2030 involves engaging adult learners interested in returning to school. Whether to finish a previously started degree or earn an additional credential, adult learners often need additional support. Project QUEST, based out of San Antonio, TX, helps low-income adults complete post-secondary education that provides the skills to begin new careers. The project works by identifying in-demand jobs in the San Antonio area and then reaching out to community organizations (churches, libraries, etc.) to find people who want to continue their education. Accepted applicants then begin in a one-to-two-year post-secondary program connected to a specific sector with high potential wages. Project QUEST assists students by providing tuition assistance and childcare arrangements, among other support programs. The project documented almost 90% of participants attaining their credentials and earning nearly $4,000 more a year after completing the program.

Credit for Prior Learning Wizard & Guide

Many adult learners seeking to go back to school to gain a post-secondary credential already have valuable experience through prior jobs and trainings associated with their career. But colleges have a difficult time translating this experience into academic credit and adult learners may have to take classes re-learning skills for which they already have real-world experience. South Central College in Minnesota has been providing resources for adult learners to identify course credits they may be eligible for based on previous work experience. Similar models exist for high schoolers coming into college having taken Advanced Placement (AP) classes but identifying how work experience fits into college credit is more nuanced than the standardized practices of the AP tests.

The Credit for Prior Learning Wizard walks adult learners through a series of questions about their experiences, identifies potential credits for which they are eligible, and notifies advisors of the results for follow-up. Since its launch in 2016, the tool has helped increase attainment levels by eliminating overlap in coursework and work experience and automatically awarding credit for industry-recognized credentials. President Marsha Danielson at Minnesota State College Southeast also released a guide for other institutions looking to implement a similar program.

Emergency Broadband Benefit for Low-Income Households

Finally, one of the major inequities COVID-19 revealed was the lack of access to broadband in many homes across the state. The rise of remote working and learning shifted internet access from an important resource to a basic necessity. Many lower-income households across the state and nation lack access to a quality connection or are unable to afford one. To assist, the federal government launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) to help qualifying households gain access to better internet connections. Under the credit, households are eligible for a discount on monthly service bills and a one-time discount on new technology.

North Carolina has also been piloting programs to bring better internet access in remote areas of the state. Ocracoke and Swain County have been piloting Starlink technology, which provides internet access through satellites, and Hyde County has been experimenting with converting old analog TV channels to send internet access across long distances. These programs have seen initial success.

 

 

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