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Level Up: Leveraging Explicit Value for Every Black Learner, Unapologetically

March 22, 2023

Education is one of the strongest vehicles to economic prosperity and overall increased quality of life; even so its structure is riddled with unaddressed systemic barriers that data show most harshly implicates Black learners. To address this requires a holistic approach driven by acknowledgement and understanding that the current structures in place are not serving Black learners well.Alarmingly, over the last 20 years, the nation has lost 300,000 Black learners from the community college system, with participation rates among Black students lower today than they were 20 years ago — a documented and drastic decline in access and enrollment long before the wide-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When looking across all sectors roughly 600,000 Black learners have disappeared from American higher education's great "open door."Clearly, this decline is not occurring because Black learners are choosing to pursue other postsecondary options. Nor are Black learners opting to enter the workforce for "good" jobs. The decline is also not because the Black population is shrinking. In fact, the Black young adult population (18-34 years old) has steadily grown since 2000. The value proposition of postsecondary education is increasingly murky for Black learners — both in Black learner perception and societal reality.To be clear, the onus is not on Black learners. State and federal institutions and policymakers at all levels have a responsibility to ensure that places of higher education are accessible and welcoming to all, regardless of a student's race or background. Black learners must have postsecondary options that ensure the value proposition of higher education for them. Delivering on this overdue right requires mobilizing core commitments with shared ownership among federal and state policymakers; local communities and their community colleges and other institutions of higher education; and philanthropic champions.Realizing these commitments represents the cornerstone of a new, equitable foundation for Black learner excellence in higher education and beyond.

Creating Opportunity for All: Building Pathways from Continuing Education to Credit Programs

February 9, 2018

In 2013, Achieving the Dream convened seven network colleges to form the Northeast Resiliency Consortium (NRC). Created in the wake of natural and manmade disasters, the consortium sought to develop a resilient workforce. Led by Passaic County Community College, and including Atlantic Cape Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Capital Community College, Housatonic Community College, Kingsborough Community College, and LaGuardia Community College, the consortium was awarded $23.5 million from the US Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) program. Achieving the Dream served as the consortium's convening partner and as an intermediary to support peer learning among colleges, provide technical assistance, host in-person consortium convenings, and promote promising strategies implemented by the consortium. One important challenge the NRC colleges took on was aligning continuing education and credit programs along a career pathway to meet student and labor market needs. This brief describes how the colleges made adjustments to articulate non-credit to credit credentials to ensure strong career pathways for students who start on the non-credit ramp.As a result, the colleges are now providing students with stacked credentials, ensuring prior learning and experience is accounted for within pathways, and are formally recognizing key milestones with credentials. All in all, the colleges smoothed the way for students to work toward an associate degree even if they began their studies in a non-credit program.

Crisis and Opportunity: Aligning the Community College Presidency with Student Success

June 13, 2013

In recent years, Americans have awakened to the profound connection between community college student success and the strength of our nation.That community colleges matter deeply is clearfrom a few simple facts:They educate over 7 million degree-seeking students, more than 40 percent of the U.S. college population.They have in recent years been growing at four times the rate of four-year colleges.They enroll a disproportionately large share of the rapidly expanding number of college students of color and first-generation students.Today, though, not enough community college students succeed. This reality was boldly acknowledged in a recent report by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC): "What we find today are student success rates that are unacceptably low, employment preparation that is inadequately connected to job market needs, and disconnects in transitions between high schools, community colleges, and baccalaureate institutions."?Focusing exclusively on the challenges facing the entire sector, however, obscures an important fact: Many community colleges have been engaged in difficult work on their campus to achieve improved rates of completion, higher levels of student learning and job preparedness, and more equitable outcomes for students of color and others who have historically been left behind in public education.The organizations that prepared this report, Achieving the Dream and the Aspen Institute, work with many institutions that are in fact demonstrably improving student success.What we have learned through our work is that while strong leadership can be exercised by people throughout an institution, every high-performing community college has a first-rate president. The best leaders across the country have a special set of qualities and know-how that enable them to lead institutions to high and improving levels of student success. This report presents a unified vision of who these leaders are and what they do, so that everyone involved in hiring and preparing community college presidents -- trustees and leaders of state systems, universities, and associations -- can consider the extent to which their assumptions and practices ensure that strong presidents are chosen and effectively trained to lead colleges in ways that meet the aspirations of every student as well as the critical goal of significantly improving student outcomes.