As community colleges seek strategies to improve completion rates, a simple and direct approach has been identified and is now being used in nine states. Project Win-Win, sponsored by the Institute for Higher Education Policy seeks out students who completed their associate degree graduation requirements but did not receive their degrees, in order to award them one.
Project Win-Win worked with 60 colleges in nine states to review graduation requirements, match them with student records, and determine who deserved a degree but had not received one. As reported in Searching for Our Lost Associate’s Degrees: Project Win-Win at the Finish Line by Clifford Adelman, the process began with about 130,000 cases where unclaimed degrees seemed likely. Some 42,000 of those who had either received a degree or were enrolled elsewhere were eliminated. Next, a detailed “degree audit” of each student’s record was undertaken by hand. Finally, it was determined that 6,700, or 16 percent of the students under review, were eligible for a diploma. Of those 6,700, about 4,500 ultimately received a degree. This final attrition was due to multiple factors, such as institutional requirements that students apply for the degree, pay a fee, or other technicalities. Further, some one-fourth of the students could not be located.
The project also identified a sizeable group of cases involving individuals who were close to finishing their degrees. Students from that group who could be located were contacted and invited to return to complete their degrees. There were about 20,000 such students in the study, and about 10 percent have either returned to school or indicated an intention to return.
Although the approach involves painstaking efforts, Project Win-Win has demonstrated an important method to improve completion rates.
New Financial Aid Toolkit to Improve College Access and Affordability
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced the launch of an online "one-stop shop" financial aid tool kit for guidance counselors and other advisers who help students select postsecondary institutions and finance their higher educations. The Financial Aid Toolkit consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database, making it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support their students. The searchable online database provides access to resources covering the entire financial aid lifecycle from applying for financial assistance to repaying student loans. It includes documents such as materials for financial aid nights at institutions publications, presentations, brochures, videos, and sample tweets and Facebook posts. The tool kit also offers professional development information, such as training opportunities and resources for self-instruction. More information about the administration’s ongoing efforts to improve college access and affordability can be found at http://www.ed.gov/college-completion
ED Invites Participation and Feedback to Improve U.S. Adults’ Skills
In October 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released results from the international Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). In an effort to examine the economic and social case for reskilling adults in the United States, the OECD analyzed the findings using U.S. data from the survey and prepared the report Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says. As a result of report findings, which demonstrated that the U.S. had a large population of adults with low skills, the U.S. Department of Education launched an engagement effort on Nov. 20, 2013, that will result in a national action plan to increase the nation’s capacity to improve the skills of adults.
OVAE is seeking feedback for the national plan through January 2014 in regional engagement sessions. A diverse cross-section of stakeholders—state and education officials; leaders in businesses, industry, policy, and labor; researchers and data experts; philanthropists; and other concerned citizens—will be surveyed.
In addition to regional engagement sessions, stakeholders are encouraged to plan and hold Time to Reskill local engagement events, and to send feedback from these events to OVAE. Local engagement events are designed to involve multiple stakeholders in your community or organization in the conversation about adult skills systems and how those systems can be strengthened to effectively reach more adults with low skills.
To conduct a local engagement event, please access and use the engagement event toolkit. To set the context for a local conversation about why skills matter, OVAE has produced a consultation paper that explains the OECD report and provides background information, definitions, and key findings from it, as well as implications and policy recommendations.
Local engagement events must be conducted and feedback sent to OVAE by no later than March 14, 2014, in order to be considered for the national action plan, which will be released in spring 2014. Feedback can be submitted through an online submission form.
More information about the adult skills outreach initiative is available here.
Where the Jobs Are
Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy, a recent study by John Dearie executive vice president for policy at the Financial Services Forum, and Courtney Geduldig, vice president of global regulatory affairs at Standard and Poor’s, examines why the United States is lagging behind its recent levels in job creation. The authors discussed job creation with more than 200 entrepreneurs, in 12 cities across the United States, to get their perspectives on the topic, in addition to interviewing other experts, including economists and policymakers.
Start-up businesses are the driving engine of the American economy. But they are dicey propositions for entrepreneurs because many fail. Nevertheless, those start-ups that do succeed are important to our economy in at least two particular respects: they tend both to be leaders in innovation and to grow and create jobs at a greater rate than larger enterprises. Indeed, most of the net new job creation in the past three decades has come from businesses less than a year old. Yet, the amount of job creation by start-ups has now fallen well below previous highs. In 1999, for example, start-ups were responsible for 4.7 million new jobs, while in 2012 that number had declined to 2.7 million new jobs.
Job creation is paramount for the United States at a time when 20 to 25 million workers are unemployed, underemployed, or have given up looking for work. Examining the issues of low skills, immigration policy, ample funding for innovative ideas, eliminating excessive regulations, reforming taxes, and reducing uncertainty are central to addressing the slow rate of job creation in the United States, according to the authors. As Dearie and Geduldig note, “At the current pace of job creation—a monthly average of just 180,000 new jobs since the beginning of 2012—America will likely not return to pre-recession levels of employment until 2023.”This fact, alone, highlights the importance of addressing this problem.
Education or the lack of skills among the workforce, especially the shortage of four-year degree holders with specific knowledge bases and skills, is just one of the principal problems identified by the authors. A strength of this book, separate from its analyses and recommendations, is that it presents the solution to solving America’s jobs problem as multi-dimensional and, thereby, contributes to thinking about America’s jobs problem more comprehensively.