I recently started to conduct interviews with lots of professionals in the community college sector for an in-depth report I am working on about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success Strategy, whose mission is “to dramatically increase the number of young adults who complete their postsecondary education, setting them up for success in the workplace and in life.” I have a tentative deadline to publish this report sometime during the summer inside the library section of The SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends and Strategies.
Boosting the Number of Low-Income Students to Earn a Degree or Credential with Labor-Market Value
The entire Postsecondary Success Strategy has a keen focus on helping low-income students earn a degree or credential of some sort that has labor-market value. This is a noble enterprise with lots of teeth and hundreds of millions of dollars being spread far and wide across the country to all of education, from K through 20, but mostly to innovative community college-related efforts. As noted on the Postsecondary Success Strategy website, “our education system is not preparing students for the demands of a knowledge-based economy and a robust democracy. It’s critical to get this right, so that our nation’s young people and their families have the opportunity for success and financial security.”
Overall, the Postsecondary Success Strategy has become a catalytic endeavor that is energizing numerous community colleges to make some significant changes to improve student learning outcomes and keep students enrolled. In particular, a lot of the focus is on figuring out how to build more effective developmental education programs for students who arrive at our nation’s community colleges not yet ready for college-level work. These students, like all students, are the American workforce of the future; getting them to effectively build their core competencies is vital to the growth of our country’s overall economic prosperity, not to mention the prosperity of the students themselves.
For example, one of the Foundation’s signature grantees is called “Completion by Design.” This is “a five-year initiative that works with community colleges to significantly increase completion and graduation rates for low-income students under 26.”Without getting too deep into the woods on this particular initiative I will simply say that – from the conversations I have had with many of the educators involved in this initiative – Completion by Design has a lot of positive energy as it has recently finished its one-year planning phase and now enters into its early implementation phase. I strongly suggest you visit their website to learn more about this innovative initiative that should ultimately have an unprecedented impact on community colleges on a national level.
Some of the other recipients of significant Postsecondary Success Strategy funds include Complete College America, “a national nonprofit with a single mission: to work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations;” Next Generation Learning Challenges, which is a “a collaborative, multi-year initiative created to address the barriers to educational innovation and tap the potential of technology to dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the United States;” Campus Compact, whose goal mission “is to educate college students to become active citizens who are well-equipped to develop creative solutions to society’s most pressing issues;” and Achieving the Dream, which is “dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.”
There are many initiatives being funded through the Foundation’s Postsecondary Success Strategy – way too many to mention here. All, however, can be considered important contributions to a reform movement unlike any other in the past happening at our community colleges today.
A Prevailing Excitement
In a recent interview I had with Josh Jarrett, one of several deputy directors for the Postsecondary Success Strategy, he explained that the Postsecondary Success Strategy team, which is comprised of about 33 employees, is “quite excited about the momentum in the field, and the progress over the last few years, and the rich conversations that are happening. . . There are a lot of folks heading in some great directions.”
So far, my foray into this report-writing project about the Postsecondary Success Strategy matches what Josh said. In short, there’s a lot of grand work going on that is geared specifically toward making college students more successful and our workforce much stronger than it is today. Stay tuned as I try to lasso this important work and become a kind of education correspondent dishing out these hopefully easy-to-digest bits of information about community colleges and workforce development.