Issue 527 - April 26, 2017

OCTAE Newsletter

April 26, 2017

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order

The following is an April 18 press release from the Department of Education, reprinted in its entirety.

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined President Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy during a visit to Snap-On Tools in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Following a tour of the facility, the President gave remarks and signed the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order. After the ceremony, Secretary DeVos gave the following statement:

“One of America’s greatest resources is the entrepreneurial spirit and hard work of its people. There’s a real demand among American companies for skilled workers like the ones Snap-On Tools employs.

“To strengthen our economy, we need a skilled and educated workforce. That’s why this Administration is committed to supporting and highlighting career and technical education.

“Snap-On’s partnership with Gateway Technical College is a great example of what can be achieved when business and education collaborate. Together, they provide employees with the skills necessary for good-paying jobs, in turn benefitting the entire community’s economy. This type of partnership can be replicated across the country, and the President’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order puts us on that path.

“I applaud the President for his commitment to our nation’s students and workers, and his efforts to ensure we have a workforce equipped to fill American jobs that are open and readily available today.”

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Secretary DeVos Visits Valencia Community College (Florida)

Valencia Community College (Osceola County campus) was the site of a late March visit by Secretary Betsy DeVos to highlight the importance and value of community colleges.  Using Valencia as an example of a school that works, DeVos emphasized that the Trump Administration wants to focus investments in education on policies and approaches that produce significant benefits.  Among these, the secretary said that she is considering making federal financial aid available year-round.  She also said that she intends to give more attention to community colleges as they offer “a tremendous option, a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous on-ramp for many students.” 

DeVos toured the campus and heard from a variety of constituencies about the roles and value of community colleges.  Local press reports said that the secretary said little during the tour and mostly listened. 

According to the Orlando Sentinel (, Valencia won the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence in 2011 for being the “top community college in the nation.”  

Valencia shares characteristics with many urban and suburban community colleges.  About half of its enrollees are minority students (34 percent are Hispanics and 17 percent are African-American); about two-thirds of students are enrolled part time; about half of its graduates earned an associate of arts degree; about 11 percent earned an associate of science degree; and about 38 percent earned a technical certificate. 

Among the notable features at Valencia are its Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, its dual enrollment program, its use of “stackable credentials” in structuring its degree programs, and its Got College? initiative to increase the number of college-bound students in central Florida.

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The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment Research Findings

 The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) hosted a capstone conference in Washington, D.C., this month.  CAPSEE, housed within the Community College Research Center at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, was established in 2011 through an IES grant.  The CAPSEE staff has produced over 40 studies and reports, ranging from the analysis of postsecondary student outcomes to technical papers on methodology (on topics such as what is the best, most accurate way to analyze the relationship between education and employment).  The CAPSEE conference was an opportunity to share some of these studies, focusing on the relationship between postsecondary education and employment.   

Thomas Bailey, director of CAPSEE, the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness, and Columbia’s Community College Research Center, as well as George and Abby O’Neill Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, gave opening remarks.  He explained that the focus of the conference was on college as an investment and addressed such questions as Is higher education worth it, and for whom? How can we make the investment in higher education more effective? Will the institutional characteristics and practices that colleges have improve student outcomes?  

The plenary sessions brought together speakers ranging from CAPSEE researchers, to college administrators, and journalists.  Video of these sessions is now available.  Breakout sessions provided an opportunity for individual CAPSEE researchers to discuss their findings related to students and institutions.  Of importance, CAPSEE was able to use state-level data on student postsecondary transcripts linked to unemployment insurance data.  This enabled the researchers to examine more closely the relationship between specific fields of study, intensity of participation, and completion, with employment outcomes.  Another group of studies looked at postsecondary institution programs and policies to see how they affected student outcomes. 

The collective summary of the presented papers and sessions and a consensus of the research findings show that, for the most part, earning a postsecondary certificate and/or degree can have a positive impact on employment and earnings. 

The plenary sessions are available for viewing at the CAPSEE website:

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Reentry Week and Supporting Success Through Education

The U.S. Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, announced a National Reentry Week, April 23–29.  The week is a cross-agency effort geared towards collaboration in helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals reenter and reintegrate with society.

Education is a vital component of an individual’s reentry. According to a 2013 study funded by the Department of Justice and conducted by the RAND Corporation, incarcerated individuals who participated in high-quality correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than those who did not. Estimates suggest that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, $4 to $5 are saved on three-year reincarceration costs.

As part of the Department of Education’s contribution to Reentry Week, Secretary DeVos is visiting Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF) in Boyds, Maryland, on April 26 to observe its educational offerings and interact with the students, teachers, and other staff.  The visit to MCCF includes a tour of the Model Learning Center, which offers full time education, including career and technical, and special education, and MCCF’s on-site One Stop Employment Center, which is co-located with the jail in an effort to provide incarcerated individuals with skills assessments and job searches prior to their release. This model allows individuals to use the education that they acquired at the correctional facility to obtain employment and further education after their release. These collaborative educational and employment efforts help to reduce recidivism, save money, and make communities safer. 

The secretary’s visit adds to the long history of partnership between the departments of Justice and Education. By using collaborative efforts, the federal government can leverage resources and voices and move the needle on issues related to individuals impacted by the justice system who also have a need for educational services.  

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University of Virginia’s Nudge4 Solutions Lab Helps Economically Disadvantaged Students Navigate Applying to College

The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education Foundation recently released a new study from its Nudge4 Solutions Lab, Nudging at a National Scale. According to founder and director, Ben Castleman, the report reveals that by providing students with concrete planning prompts (“nudges”) on how and when to complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), it “can generate positive increases in enrollment at a national scale.”  

The Solutions Lab was founded to address issues that economically disadvantaged students and their families have with accessing quality information and/or advising about their educational options. What emerged were these nudges, defined as “an action taken to encourage or alter someone’s behavior,” and delivered via text message to an individual’s cell phone.  

Castleman designed the lab with partners, ranging from school districts and higher education systems to state workforce systems, to better understand “how individuals navigate complex decisions by using the latest interactive technologies, creative design and robust analytic approaches for significant challenges—such as applying to colleges, navigating the financial aid process and dealing with loan repayment.” 

Begun in 2016, the Curry School of Education’s Nudge4 Solutions Lab created a way to “utilize a text message-based intervention to provide young Americans with information and reminders about applying to colleges, navigating the financial aid process and dealing with loan repayment.” The lab found that by using behavioral solutions—well-designed nudges—they can help students and families make active and informed decisions about the educational pathways they pursue. In short, they were ably were to help “level the playing field for economically-disadvantaged students and their families, throughout all stages of schooling.” 

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Open Education Resources (OER) Webinar for Career, Technical, and Adult Education: Introducing SkillsCommons