Policymakers Gather to Discuss Postsecondary Education Strategies

On August 15, state legislators and postsecondary officials attended the CSG Policy Academy on Innovative Delivery Models in Postsecondary Education as part of the CSG East Annual Meeting held in Wilmington, Delaware.

After a few introductory remarks from Pam Goins, Director of Education Policy at The Council of State Governments, and Brenna Kehew Sculley, Associate Director of Policy and Programs at Women in Government, keynote speaker Nate Anderson from Jobs for the Future gave a brief overview of postsecondary innovations occurring at the national level.

Some of the topics addressed by Mr. Anderson included stackable credentials, developmental (remedial) education, and creating career pathways “on-ramps” for students, with greater emphasis on credential reform.  Anderson identified five types of credentials: educational diplomas, certificates, and degrees; registered apprenticeship certificates; occupational licenses; personnel certifications from industry and professional associations; and other certificates. 

Despite the wide variety of options, students have often encountered a labyrinthine credential system.  In order to simplify this process, Jobs for the Future offer quality credentials as a potential solution.  These will be technical and occupational competencies developed by employers, portable (recognized by multiple employers, schools, and geographic areas), competency-based with transcriptable credits, third-party validated, and ultimately part of a career pathways network that will allow students to be able to “stack” these credentials to advanced degrees.

Following Mr. Anderson, a panel comprised of representatives from Guttman Community College at the City University of New York, and Bard College discussed specific efforts taking place at their institutions. 

Two major issues generally plague community colleges nationwide: low retention/graduation rates and low levels of college readiness.  Administrators at Guttman have devised what they call a “guided pathway model,” a model designed to lessen these previously mentioned issues endemic to community colleges.  Starting with a multi-step informational admissions process for prospective students and a mandatory summer orientation session allowing for students to be introduced to curriculum and the expectations of college, campus leaders at Guttman believe that this model will lead to greater student engagement and higher rates of degree completion and the results have generally supported their claims.

A highly selective liberal arts school in upstate New York, Bard College has become one of the leading innovators in dual enrollment with their Early Colleges.  Although Bard has been part of the early college movement for decades, the last several years have seen new Early College centers in New Orleans and Harlem as well as partnerships with public schools in Manhattan, Queens, Newark, Cleveland and Baltimore. 

These two dual enrollment programs allow students the chance to earn up to 60 college credits by the time of graduating high school, tuition-free.  Students are taught by college faculty in undergraduate seminars, with the majority of instructors holding terminal degrees. 

Students enrolled in Bard Early Colleges have higher high school graduation rates and undergraduate degree attainment than their peers in local school districts.  Just as important, this program allows for students to save several thousand dollars in tuition and fees because of their work in earning two years of college credit before even graduating high school.

Following an informal roundtable discussion by session attendees, Vermont’s career pathways networks were highlighted, with representatives from the state’s Agency of Education, Department of Labor, and Vermont State College system.

In 2013, Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin signed the Flexible Pathways Bill (Act 77) which expanded the state’s dual enrollment and early college programs, increased access to work-based learning and career/technical education, and created personalized learning plans. 

The overall goals of this initiative are threefold: encourage and support the creativity of local school districts, promote achieving postsecondary readiness, and increase rates of secondary school completion and postsecondary continuation in Vermont.