Aligning Community College Credentials with the Job Market
August 31, 2017
Aspen Institute to Develop Tools for Employment Equity in College Programs
The definition of student success is evolving beyond access and completion to include economic opportunities after graduation. But while there is a high demand for qualified workers in energy, health care, information technology and advanced manufacturing sectors, many community college students graduate unprepared to fill those positions. The problem is most acute for students of color, first-generation students and students from low-income backgrounds, because fewer of these students have historically enrolled in academic programs with high labor market value.
To help more colleges connect their academic programs with rewarding employment opportunities for students of all backgrounds, we're funding a project by the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program.
With a Great Lakes grant of $368,000, Aspen will identify six community colleges with exemplary track records of offering successful, equitable programs that can help students learn, graduate and advance to well-paying jobs. After a thorough evaluation of these colleges' policies and practices, Aspen will develop practical, easy-to-use tools to help other schools strengthen employer collaborations and make changes at the institutional and program levels. Aspen plans to share its findings with the field by convening college leaders, workforce experts, employers and members of the higher education reform community.
We hope this work will reveal the secrets of success for better aligning degree programs with labor market demands so that students from all backgrounds graduate with the right skills to build rewarding careers.
Completion Grants Remove an Obstacle for At-Risk Students Nearing Graduation
Every year, thousands of students within striking distance of completing their academic program are prevented from graduating because of a small unpaid balance on their school account—tuition, lab fees, parking tickets, library fines or any number of other institutional charges. At many schools, a senior who has invested thousands of dollars in his or her education may be unable to register because they owe a few hundred dollars.
Completion grants—microgrants made to at-risk students within a semester or two of graduating—have proven to be an effective tool for eliminating this barrier. Great Lakes is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund a $4 million grant to pilot and evaluate completion grant programs across the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a group of 11 major public research universities that collaborate to implement innovative projects designed to promote the success of underrepresented students.
The UIA pilots will be modeled on alliance member Georgia State University's Panther Retention Grant program. Since its launch in 2011, the program has helped more than 8,000 low-income students persist in their education with awards averaging $900. It is a key component of a strategy that has resulted in remarkable improvement in the graduation rate among at-risk students at GSU.
Through this project, we hope to gain a better understanding of how to establish and administer an effective completion grant program, and to learn how successfully the impressive results of the Panther program can be replicated elsewhere.
Making Futures Brighter with Anniversary Grants
Great Lakes is marking our 50th anniversary by investing in the nine communities where our offices are located. Brighter Futures Grants are an extension of our education philanthropy and employee giving program, Great Lakes Gives. Employees selected local issues to address and the grant recipients.
Throughout the summer, we awarded a total of $525,000 in one-year Brighter Futures Grants to 14 nonprofit organizations focusing on hunger, homelessness, disability services, domestic violence and youth development. Additionally, employees are encouraged to use paid Volunteer Time Off at these organizations to complement the financial award with the gift of their time.
Receive information about grant opportunities, initiatives, and the progress we're making together.
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