Post-Secondary Education

How can states better ensure that soon-to-be high school graduates are leaving their K–12 education systems ready to succeed in college or the workforce? For states, finding answers to that policy question has never been more important because of a continuing economic trend—jobs are demanding more and more skills and increasingly requiring some level of postsecondary training.

On July 22, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to assist those looking for employment access the education, training and support services needed to find family-sustaining jobs and to match skilled workers with business and industry. 

Veterans have unique needs when they attend college, but fortunately, state leaders can do quite a few things to help ease their transition into college, civilian life and the workforce. “Generally speaking, their (veterans’) skills are undervalued by the civilian workforce,” said Dawn McDaniel, a U.S. Army veteran and president of Bravo Delta Consulting, a business that partners with companies and governments to help reduce the barriers for veterans in the workforce. “This is largely because the military culture is unknown. With only a 7.5 percent veteran population in the United States, … that leaves a tremendous amount of people who never had any connection or any intimate knowledge of the service and what it means.”

CSG South

Since the turn of the 21st century, the United States has maintained a cultural creed that the only path to a middle-class lifestyle is through a four-year bachelor's degree or higher. However, increasing analyses are demonstrating that industries with the highest growth in the next decade will demand skills readily obtainable through a two-year technical education. Moreover, several policy and industry experts have begun raising concerns about the ever-increasing gap between middle-skill jobs (those requiring more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree) and the number of middle-skilled workers available to fill those jobs. These findings, along with evidence indicating that middle-class household incomes are more attainable by those with a member holding at least an associate's degree, are steering SLC policymakers toward creating and expanding programs that increase their technical and community college graduation rates. In that vein, this SLC Regional Resource examines efforts by policymakers in selected SLC member states to implement postsecondary scholarships programs specifically targeted at increasing their number of two-year degree graduates.

Veterans are enrolling in postsecondary education institutions in large numbers, most of them with extensive occupational experience. Many colleges use Prior Learning Assessments to award academic credit when the knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside the classroom--including employment, military training and service, civic activities, and volunteer service--can be matched to college-level coursework. Veterans who earn credit for general courses are able to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time, reducing...

Working with student veterans on a daily basis, Jan Del Signore sees the challenges of making the transition from military service to civilian life, especially when assisting those building credentials to find sustainable employment. Unlike many college students, military veterans bring a set of skills and past training, but are less likely to persist to a degree and more likely to be unemployed. When postsecondary institutions offer college credit for prior learning in the military, most students complete college faster, attain a degree or credential and leave with less student debt.

Insourcing is a practice that reverses the trend of multinational corporations operating overseas. Businesses increasingly are choosing to relocate to the United States, and in some cases, foreign-owned corporations are employing American workers for the first time. Insourcing saves and creates jobs, and state policy can play a pivotal role in affecting businesses’ decisions to locate stateside.

The U.S. Department of Commerce wants state leaders to think about education when considering their export programs. “When it comes to education, we look at education as a very important service sector,” said Joan Kanlian, director of the Westchester Export Assistance Center in New York. “It currently is the seventh largest service sector export in the U.S. In certain areas, it can be the predominant export.” Kanlian was one of the featured speakers during a recent CSG eCademy session called, “States Take Global Approach to Higher Education.” She said the Commerce Department provides a variety of assistance for states that are looking to recruit more international students to their schools.

States know that increased international exposure can contribute to economic growth and increased trade and foreign investment. While higher education institutions traditionally have focused on recruiting international students, several states now are formalizing their approach to attracting foreign students and encouraging foreign exchange in strategic economic and workforce development plans. This eCademy session identifies trends in state government activity supporting internationalization and examines why this is an area of increasing opportunity for states.

Most states are seeing evidence of economic growth with an increase in job creation and overall decrease in unemployment. However, too many individuals remain unemployed, the skills gap dividing workers’ technical skills and those capabilities needed by business and industry continues to grow, and the lack of opportunities to advance exists for numerous employees. Training workers with the skills and competencies needed to sustain employment will help provide for their family and will assist American businesses grow the economy. In 2015 state policymakers and executive branch officials will focus on job-driven training, reducing the skills gap, aligning systems and targeting the hard-to-employ.

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