OVAE Connection - Issue 177, December 12, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                   OVAE Connection - Issue 177 -  December 12, 2013

National Governors Association Launches America Works Initiative to Improve Education, State and Local Economies

The National Governors Association (NGA) chair, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, recently discussed her initiative America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs, during one of the three summits she is hosting with state teams. The year-long effort will focus on improving state education and workforce training systems and aligning these systems with the needs of state economies. Adult education program managers and providers may be particularly interested in these activities as they are developed and implemented by states. In fact, the summits are designed to provide state teams comprising governors and state business, education and industry leaders the opportunity to learn from one another and enact changes in each state.

According to the America Works overview, approximately 40 percent of today’s jobs are available for high school graduates and dropouts, with more than two-thirds of those paying less than $25,000 a year. Recognizing this change in the economy, Gov. Fallin declared that either a two- or four-year degree or a certificate recognized in the workforce is the “new minimum” to compete, earn a living wage, and access the middle class and beyond. Her initiative addresses the growing need for ensuring that America's workforce stays competitive in a global economy.

In view of this need, Gov. Fallin asserts the unique responsibility of governors, who are already positioned to encourage connections between education and the workforce within their states. As leaders of their states, they are the point persons for the success of both public education and economic development. They, along with businesses, are responsible for their states, as well as the nation’s, economic future by how effectively they align the education and workforce training of their populace with labor market demands. At the first two summits, Gov. Fallin pointed out that workers with education and training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will be among those best prepared to attain higher wages over the next decade—“including those in health care, management, scientific and technical consulting, business services, and advanced manufacturing.” These jobs, in particular, will not only support families, but also spur states’ economies.

To address these education and workforce issues, America Works “will focus on improving the capacity and effectiveness of states’ education and workforce training systems and aligning those systems with the needs of the state economies. The initiative will focus on four key elements to help states overcome gaps between education and training systems and the current regional workforce, by creating

  • A statewide vision connecting education results with the needs of our economies;
  • Integrated and improved data systems;
  • High-quality public-private partnerships; and
  • Alignment of federal and state funding, incentives, and other resources to the integrated vision.

Visit the NGA website for further news and regular updates on the year-long initiative.

Getting Low-Income High School Students to Their Best College Options

                                 Taking a Successful Information Pilot to Scale

The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution recently published a critical study by economists Caroline M. Hoxby and Sarah Turner, Informing Students about Their College Options: A Proposal for Broadening the Expanding College Opportunities Project. The study calls for a nationwide expansion of a pilot program, the Expanding College Opportunities Project (ECO), which sends targeted information from selective colleges to high-achieving, low-income high school students about their college options how to apply to college, and available financial aid. ECO is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education.

According to the study, the vast majority of high-achieving, low-income high school graduates do not apply to selective colleges or universities, as contrasted with their higher-income peers. The authors contend that this is a missed opportunity compounded by a lost chance to transform promising lives. The resulting and continuous gap represents a loss for society at large because it increases the gap in general well-being and diminishes opportunities for upward social mobility.

For students with great potential to be daunted by a mere lack of knowledge in taking advantage of their college opportunities, as the evidence suggests is an untenable situation for our nation. Low-income, high-achieving students are interested in attending the best colleges for which they qualify, according to the ECO survey results, and their high grades and top test scores would make them competitive candidates at even the most-selective schools, the report notes. Their qualifications notwithstanding, as Hoxby and Turner point out in their discussion paper, they often decide to attend schools that are nonselective and less demanding, have fewer pertinent resources and lower graduation rates, and cost students more out of pocket. Such choices exacerbate the difference in educational outcomes between these students and their higher-income peers.

Hoxby and Turner suggests specific steps that policymakers and the education community can take to ensure these students are adequately informed about and prepared to act on all of their college options. They developed and tested the password-protected Expanding College Opportunities Project, providing guidance to targeted students on how to apply to college, the actual cost of attending a variety of colleges, and the wide range of graduation rates and academic resources at institutions of higher education.

The authors maintain that an expanded version of this informational intervention has the potential for dramatically expanding college opportunities for high-achieving, low-income students. Furthermore, they propose, in their accompanying policy brief, that “improving researchers’ access to relevant federal data sets could better target this intervention to those students who could benefit most from them, and could also help researchers design similar interventions to help combat other persistent problems in America’s education system.”