Alabama and Indiana are helping many more people get education for good jobs—Here’s how
Research and Evaluation

Alabama and Indiana are helping many more people get education for good jobs—Here’s how

Two men discussing strategy in meeting room.

In a time when millions of people need new skills to fill open jobs across the country, we’re learning more about how educators, employers, and government agencies can work together to help them—and help solve the nation’s critical labor shortage.

Alabama and Indiana are proving this with partnerships that create connections and remove barriers for people who want to learn beyond high school. They’re among 46 states that have set bold post-high school education attainment goals in tandem with the nation’s goal to help 60 percent of Americans earn degrees or high-quality credentials by 2025. Today, we’re only at 51.9 percent.

Lumina Foundation has supported the Alabama and Indiana programs, and we asked Equivolve Consulting to evaluate how they’re working. Now the results are in, with important insights on creating valuable partnerships that other states can use when building their own higher-ed networks:

  • Let data be your “flashlight.” Data on degrees, credentials, and the workforce are especially important to gain buy-in from those who may not realize the value of a statewide attainment strategy.
  • Build it, and the state will come. Don’t be discouraged if there are no state-level, post-high school education champions, or few connections between the state and regions. Move ahead with your partnership priorities, using a broad and inclusive network of voices, and the state will follow.
  • Leverage those “in the know.” Include someone with extensive knowledge of your state’s post-high school education work. These team members have built strong relationships and know where to turn for help. They also know which initiatives have already been tried.
  • Listen carefully to community voices. Use those ideas to develop strategies that directly meet people’s needs and add essential resources.
  • Don’t get stuck in the planning phase. Get started now.
In a time when millions of people need new skills to fill open jobs across the country, we’re learning more about how educators, employers, and government agencies can work together to help them—and help solve the nation’s critical labor shortage.

As these partnerships develop and adapt, they are creating sustainable improvements. Alabama is working to improve the prospects for working-class Americans and those from low-income families. The state is also trying to make it easier for students to keep learning beyond high school, and connecting the efforts of state offices dealing with education, jobs, and unemployment. With better coordination, Alabama is pushing forward policies such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Policy to improve access to quality education for all of its residents.

Meanwhile, Indiana is working to increase academic, social, and financial support for students, reduce barriers to obtaining a credential, and improve data systems to include counting non-degree credentials. The states also have a shared goal: showing how quality credentials can alleviate poverty.

With these efforts, Alabama and Indiana expect to see their postsecondary attainment rates rise. Alabama’s attainment rate is 45.1 percent, up by 13.5 percentage points since 2009. Indiana’s attainment rate is 48.3 percent, up 15.4 percentage points since 2009. Both states are aiming for 60 percent by 2025.

One thing is clear: Every state must improve. In a world where post-high school education is crucial to good jobs and better lives, too many people are left behind. Alabama and Indiana are showing what’s possible when we work together, rather than at odds. By building on these lessons, we can help all Americans learn, grow, and thrive.

As one Alabama participant put it: “Just do it, and I think the results will speak for themselves.”


Wendy Sedlak, Ph.D., is strategy director for research and evaluation at Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation that strives for racial equity as it helps all Americans obtain education beyond high school. Sedlak synthesizes data and evidence to help guide Lumina’s strategy, and measures the foundation’s progress. Previously, she worked at Equal Measure, where she directed complex national systems-change evaluations.

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