Adult Degree Completion Strategies

National or Multi-state Focus

  • American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Washington, DC. Launched in 2008, the Plus 50 Initiative managed by the AACC is a three-year pilot supported by a grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies. Thirteen pilot community colleges, eight affiliate colleges, and peer-to-peer outreach between 23 colleges have developed or expanded at least two of three types of programs that engage learners 50+ years of age: workforce training, learning/enrichment, and volunteering/civic service. AACC will build on existing strategies in this project to scale-up the Initiative to enable 20 geographically dispersed community colleges to increase the number of 50+ adults with a focus on those with prior college credits to complete credentials (degrees, certificates, not-for-credit credentials). Key outcomes will include focusing the Initiative on certificate/degree programs in high-demand fields that meet local workforce needs and establishing institutional practices that make it easier for the target group of 9,000 adults (50+) to navigate the community college system. Forty percent of the group will be targeted to complete credentials by 2014.
  • Board of Control for Southern Regional Education (SREB), Atlanta, GA. SREB will establish an Adult Learner Portal as a clearinghouse to degree completion programs from regionally accredited postsecondary institutions, supported by services and information adults can use in considering a return to college. The portal will provide a single-entry point for adults to learn more about returning to college and other information to make decisions about programs most appropriate to their needs. The portal will be beta-tested in 2011 within the southern region, then launched in 2012 as a national service. Marketing/recruitment campaigns will support the regional and national roll-outs. With more than 50 million working-age adults with some college credit who have not attained a degree, the portal is expected to serve a large number of adults. Given the online focus of programs in the portal, geography need not be a barrier or major consideration for adult learners. A key benefit of this effort will be cost savings to states, that will not need to develop adult learner portals given the availability of the national portal.
  • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), Chicago, IL. CAEL with partners, the American Council on Education (ACE) and the College Board, will launch and administer a Virtual Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Center. The Center will assist students to accelerate time to the college degree, and expand institutions’ capacity to serve more students. The Center will provide comprehensive PLA resources to a range of users; e.g., individual learners, postsecondary institutions, and employers. The Center also will provide online prior learning portfolio courses and faculty evaluations of portfolios, accompanied by a range of services including a common web portal to enable users to access the services of the three partner organizations as well as store student credentials and transcripts in the ACE Lifelong Learning Repository. An external vendor will host/maintain the Center’s online technology platform. Outcomes will include dramatically expanded PLA assessment opportunities for returning adult learners, and economies of scale and avoidance of duplicated efforts among postsecondary institutions in PLA.
  • Goodwill Industries International, Inc., Rockville, MD. The Community College/Career Collaboration (C4) is an initiative launched in 2009 by Goodwill Industries International, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Aspen Institute, Jobs for the Future, and three pilot local Community College/Goodwill partnerships with successful, replicable models. The project’s purpose is to increase college and career success for low-income adults. The project will engage up to 30 new partnership sites in learning about model sites in northern Virginia, Winston-Salem, NC, and San Antonio, TX -- with the goal of formally engaging 20 new Community College/Goodwill partnerships to commit to implementing elements of the three models. Four emergent partnerships have been identified as potential replication sites: Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; and Milwaukee, WI. By the end of the one-year grant, 300 participants in the current model sites will be enrolled in career training and education programs. Once new Community College/Goodwill partnerships are launched, thousands of low-income adults will participate in college/career programs.
  • Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Washington, D.C. The Win-Win project, led by IHEP, will scale up work begun in a pilot effort to increase associate-degree completion by promoting practices to identify associate degree “near-completers” and remove barriers to degree completion. Research from the pilot found many students in the participating institutions—or stopped out of the institution—eligible for associate-degree completion once proper institutional processes were instituted. Thirty-five institutions will participate in the scale-up, drawn from three states continuing from the pilot (Louisiana, New York, Ohio) and three new states (Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin). SHEEO will partner to identify state policy levers that can advance associate degree completion. Key national implications for higher education institutions and policymakers will include will-building around the importance of an associate degree-completion agenda, and demonstration of model practices of associate-degree completion by both two- and four-year institutions.
  • Jobs for the Future (JFF), Boston, MA. JFF with partnering community college systems in Kentucky, North Carolina and Michigan, will advance a supportive state policy framework to increase adult completion rates in occupational-technical credential programs. This work builds on JFF’s national partnership with the National Council for Workforce Education in the Breaking Through Initiative. Breaking Through, rooted in practice improvements at the community college level, has resulted in community college networks across 18 states focused on using institutional redesign to serve adult students seeking occupational/technical credentials. This project will enable a network of community colleges in three states to advance policy conditions that will boost adults' credential completion. Key outcomes will include: 1.) better policy via policy audits in the states; 2.) increased awareness of returning adult challenges; 3.) 17 community colleges scaling pathway innovations and participating in state policy efforts; and 4.) tripled student enrollments (from 1,700 to 5,100) and 3,700 adults completing credentials across the participating colleges.
  • Manufacturing Institute, Washington, D.C. The project will support 12 states to join five current states (North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington, Indiana) that are leading efforts to align their educational and career pathways with the National Association of Manufacturers-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System. The following states will undertake implementation-- in Year 1: Florida, Connecticut and Wisconsin; Year 2: Iowa, New York and Mississippi; Year 3: Alabama, Arkansas and Nevada; and Year 4: Illinois, Tennessee and Kansas. The project will scale up the model to align stackable industry-recognized skills certifications in Advanced Manufacturing with educational degree pathways that span high school to community colleges to four-year institution programs of study. Key outcomes will include: 1.) increasing the number of students who earn a postsecondary credential with value in the workplace; 2.) creating/validating industry-aligned postsecondary pathways with Advanced Manufacturing career pathways using real-time data on each state’s economy map; 3.) mapping the Advanced Manufacturing educational pathways in the states; 4.) integrating industry credentials into early adopter postsecondary institutions’ programs of study; 5.) modularizing the college curriculum to shorten time to credentials and provide more on/off-ramps in postsecondary education; 6.) strengthening employer engagement with education; and 7.) building a community of learners among states to share best in class tools to facilitate implementation.
  • Rutgers University Foundation, New Brunswick, NJ. The Rutgers Center for Women and Work (RCWW) and Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) will collaborate to help four states (Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and two to be determined) transition their workforce and education systems to incorporate an online learning degree completion service model. The project builds on the Workforce Online Learning Information Portal (WOLIP), an online learning portal to provide degree attainment to clients in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). States will identify WIA clients 3-12 credits away from a degree. Postsecondary training will be delivered through the Electronic Campus of the Southern Regional Education Board. The project will create new partnerships and articulation agreements with community colleges and universities to expand offerings on the existing portal that will facilitate transfer credits for WIA clients close to degree completion. Key outcomes will include: 1.) revamping state workforce development systems from providing primarily short-term, workforce-driven credentialing programs to adding degree-completion opportunities for eligible clients a few credits short of earning a degree; 2.) connecting postsecondary institutions to adult students in the WIA system; 3.) reducing the cost of education/training delivery in state workforce development systems; and 4.) helping some 2,000 WIA-eligible dislocated workers per year in the target states gain degree-completing credits.
  • Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), Boulder, CO. WICHE will develop a learning network to support Lumina's Adult Degree Completion strategies. The network will implement mechanisms for effective networking, communication, and dissemination, to include the following: 1.) interactive website to serve as a resource for grantees and others working to increase adult degree completion; 2.) meetings/conferences for grantees and others invited to participate in network activities; 3.) webinars to highlight effective strategies for serving adults; 4.) policy briefs/reports on lessons learned; 5.) repository of higher education policies related to adult learners; 6.) listserv to expedite network communications; 7.) presentations at regional/national meetings; 8.) social and communications media use to engage grantees and other stakeholders in discussions about adult degree completion; and 9.) activities to be determined once the Network is operational (e.g., hosted "lab" visits to best-practice locations, leveraging activities with programs such as the College Access Challenge Grant Consortium).

Metro Focus

  • CEO for Cities, Chicago, IL. Over the past year, CEOs for Cities has staged the Talent Dividend Tour, convening cross-sector groups of urban leaders in 29 cities to present the Talent Dividend findings and discuss local strategies for achieving the one percentage point goal. Through this tour, multiple media placements and speeches to affinity groups, urban leaders across the country are recognizing the significant economic benefits of increasing college attainment rates in their cities. To achieve the Talent Dividend in America’s cities, CEOs for Cities will undertake a multi-prong approach with five objectives: 1.) expanding the reach, 2.) elevating the message, 3.) supporting urban leaders to move from insight to action, 4.) advancing civic collaboration and 5.) speeding change at scale.
  • Greater Louisville Inc., Louisville, KY. The HIRE Education Forum (Higher Income Requires Education) is a collaboration of 31 postsecondary institutions throughout the Greater Louisville region (26 counties in Kentucky and southern Indiana) that fosters regional economic development via better alignment between postsecondary institutions and the business community. HIRE will partner with two regional entities (Business Leaders for Education and Mayor’s Education Roundtable) to target 202,511 employees (162,586 in 19 Kentucky counties and 39,925 in seven Indiana counties) who have earned some college credits to complete a degree. Strategies include: 1.) assisting employers to determine what “best practice” systems need to be put into place to assist employees to complete degrees, 2.) one-on-one counseling with employers/employees on postsecondary opportunities and affordability, 3.) marketing campaign to encourage adults to complete degrees and link to employment prospects, 4.) assisting postsecondary institutions to determine curricular gaps and better package completer programs and support systems. Key outcomes will include the following: increased number of degrees for employees participating in the employee education delivery system, increased affordability through employer incentives to returning adults, reduced time to degree completion through prior learning assessment, and better alignment of the business community and postsecondary institutions.
  • Graduate! Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA. Graduate! Philadelphia (G!P) was created in 2005 to mobilize leadership and regional resources to increase the number and proportion of adults with quality college degrees. G!P’s focus is on “comebackers,” adults with at least 15 college credits transferable into degree completion programs. Graduate! Philadelphia will improve the model currently operating in Philadelphia and Connecticut while replicating the model in three new sites including Des Moines, IA and Chicago, IL. Using the existing benchmarks of 95 percent retention rates post-enrollment, and 30 percent reenrollment rate within five months of receiving services, the project will develop a set of materials for use by replication sites, engage sites in a national network to improve learning and practice, and promote two- and four-year degree completion among returning adults. By 2014, the expansion network will inform a minimum of 100,000 comebackers of postsecondary options, enroll 8,000, and graduate 1,000.
  • National League of Cities, Washington. D.C. Through the Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success Initiative, the Institute for Youth, Education and Families of the National League of Cities Institute will develop/disseminate information on how cities can advance a postsecondary success agenda, and use learning strategies to interconnect leading-edge cities. Key strategies include developing a new resource bank of promising city policies and practices; conducting extensive dissemination of information through multiple communications tools, including publication of Municipal Action Guides for city leaders and reports on the links between higher education attainment and cities’ economic vitality and quality of life; and conducting peer networking and learning opportunities for mayors and their key staff and community partners around strategies that support a degree-completion agenda. Key outcomes will include: 1.) deeper engagement of municipal leaders, 2.) broader, more formalized local partnerships, 3.) documentation and dissemination of promising practices, and 4.) enhanced city knowledge exchanges and peer learning, especially in 15 targeted large cities.

State Focus

  • Ivy Tech Foundation, Indianapolis, IN. Ivy Tech Community College with 28 campuses and several instructional centers, will partner with the Indiana University Division of Continuing Studies and its regional campuses to re-engage adult students and co-market their articulated degree programs in General Studies. Strategies include 1.) conducting degree audits of former students to identify adults who have completed at least 45 credits but did not earn a degree, 2.) statewide outreach/marketing to the target population, 3.) intensive counseling and support services, 4.) articulation of Ivy Tech associate degrees with IU’s bachelor degrees in general studies, and 5.) accelerated/facilitated degree completion through prior learning assessment, online distance education and related programs. Key outcomes will include the identification of at least 5,000 adults with more than 45 college credits from Ivy Tech but no degree to be recruited to complete their degree; and a statewide campaign to raise public awareness of the Ivy Tech-IU partnership, highlighting the added value of associate and bachelor’s degrees. Over the four-year grant, Ivy Tech expects to produce 1,000 graduates with associate degrees transferable to IU. IU will contact and recruit from a target group of 5,000-10,000 in areas served by Ivy Tech and the regional universities, to enroll 2,500 adults, with 1,000 adults completing degrees within four years.
  • Manufacturing Institute, Washington, D.C. The project will enable Indiana to join four states (North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington) that are leading efforts nationally to align educational and career pathways with the National Association of National Association of Manufacturers-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System. The project will: 1.) increase the number of Hoosiers who will earn a postsecondary credential with value in the workplace; 2.) align stackable industry-recognized skills certifications with educational degree pathways in the Ivy Tech community colleges and four-year institutions (Purdue and Indiana Universities’ regional universities) and with career pathways in Advanced Manufacturing; 3.) modularize college curriculum along the pathway to shorten the time to credentials and provide more on- and off-ramps in postsecondary education; and 4.) strengthen employer engagement through a partnership with Conexus Indiana.
  • Minnesota State Colleges & Universities (MNSCU), St. Paul, MN. The MNSCU will create the RAPID Completion Program, which will increase re-enrollment, degree progress and degree completion among former system students lacking degrees. Key strategies include 1.) mining student data records to identify the target population, 2.) conducting a statewide outreach campaign to increase awareness of credit for prior learning options and adult-centered programs such as individualized and accelerated programs with flexible start dates, and 3.) expanding postsecondary institutions' capacity to assess and offer prior learning assessments and offer academic courses/programs appropriate to enable returning students to complete degrees. Rapid completion will help an estimated 19,500 adults re-enroll and 9,600 adults complete their degrees. Also, an estimated 1,000 individuals served through the system's Veteran's Re-Entry Education Program will meet the criteria of having 15 or more credits, with 60 percent (600) completing a degree during the grant period.
  • Research Foundation of State University of New York (SUNY), Albany, NY. SUNY will create SUNY WORKS, a systemwide cooperative education program across its 64 campuses in collaboration with business/industry and regional economic councils. Key strategies include working with cohorts of 375 students at five campuses per year to develop/implement credit bearing, paid co-op sites. By 2014, this will be scaled up to 20 community college campuses that will have operational co-op sites, drawing on co-op assignments from an estimated 300 employers. Key outcomes will include: 1.) increased graduation rate from two- and four-year programs for the large number of adults who have earned prior college credits but no degrees, who are either currently enrolled or dropped out (SUNY’s goal is 90 percent graduation rate for participating adult co-op students); 2.) preparing adults to assume employment in high-demand STEM fields through participation in co-op education; and 3.) 2,000 more adult students completing degrees by 2014, and thereafter, 5,000 more adults upon full system scale-up. The long-term goal is full SUNY-wide rollout of SUNY WORKS by year 2020.
  • University of Wisconsin System Administration (UWS), Madison, WI. The UWS will expand prior learning assessment (PLA) activities across its 14 institutions, representing 26 campuses. This project will expand opportunities for adults to earn college credit via PLA, especially via portfolio and challenge exams, and apply (transfer) this credit to degree requirements at system institutions. Key strategies include leadership provided by two centralized planning committees (Academic Planning/Policy Task Force and Implementation Advisory Committee), and implementation efforts at a group of 9-12 pilot institutions. Pilot institutions will represent a mix of two-year and comprehensive campuses and will be strategically located across the state to maximize PLA access to the adult student population. Major activities will include: 1.) convening faculty, administrators and staff at pilot institutions to develop comprehensive PLA policies/practices including transfer policies; 2.) training academic advisors on PLA; 3.) training faculty on the benefits of PLA and its links to learner outcomes; 4.) expanding departmental-level challenge exams/test banks; 5.) engaging employers around employees who use PLA; and 6.) marketing PLA to a target population of 44,000 Wisconsin residents who have some college credits but no degree/certificate. Key outcomes will include the development of consistent PLA policies that support a systemwide rollout of PLA training and implementation at UWS institutions, and a 10 percent increase by 2015 of returning adult students participating in PLA with the aim of accelerating their progress toward degree completion and holding down costs of degree completion.
  • West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), Charleston, WV. The HEPC will lead a collaborative effort to create an integrated statewide adult degree completion program (DegreeNow), from two established but separate programs. Key partners include the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia (coordinating body for community/technical colleges), and NASPA-Student Affairs in Higher Education (national professional association for student affairs administration, policy and practice). DegreeNow will incorporate three components: 1.) the Board of Governors A.A.S. Adult Degree Completion Program; 2.) the Regents Transfer Agreement, and 3.) the Regents Bachelor of Arts Today. Together, these components will provide a continuum in which adults can earn associate or bachelor’s degrees previously started, and facilitate progress for those who complete an associate and choose to work toward earning a bachelor’s. DegreeNow will help 3,000 adults complete an associate degree and 4,600 complete a bachelor’s. After the grant ends, DegreeNow expects to help 2,500 adults per year complete a credential.