Consider results-based funding, special assistance during COVID-19 – Sutton – 2022 – Recruitment and retention of adult learners
But ensuring the financial longevity of the state is not the only objective behind the CCHE strategic plan and the commitment to reach the 66% mark for accredited adults. âThe strategic goal is to increase completion, close equity gaps, improve student success, and commit to affordability and innovation,â said Cynthia Armendariz, Ph .D., Director of CCHE, at a session at the Council on Adult’s annual conference and experiential learning.
Armendariz was joined by Chris Rasmussen, senior director of academic pathways and innovation at the Colorado Department of Higher Education; Julie Beggs, Director of Workforce and Community Programs at Arapahoe Community College; and PuraCarina Gonzalez, Senior Director of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives for One Million Degrees, to discuss steps being taken by colleges and universities in the state to help adult learners graduate.
They also shared strategies to support students during COVID-19, maximize grant funds, and consider out-of-the-box solutions for challenges typical of adult learners. Read on for their best practices.
Serve students in your state
Colorado is a highly educated state overall, but not for Colorado natives, Armendariz said. âMore than 75% of our jobs [in the state] require some type of credential. A lot of people in our state are highly educated, but we don’t do a great job educating our own students. [in-state]”said Armendariz.
In the state, at the time of the conference session, there were 400,000 students employed in college, but no diploma. In order to meet the goal of 66% of Colorado adults with a post-secondary credential, Armendariz said more than 73,000 of those students need to graduate or graduate by 2025.
But Colorado’s goal is also to close gaps in equity and achievement of all kinds: racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and the students who are the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education. “We [in Colorado] in fact have some of the largest equity gaps in the United States, âArmendariz said.
For example, only 33% of black students in the state have graduated from post-secondary education, and only 29% of Hispanic or Native American students have it. The CCHE master plan included the imperative that the equity and achievement gaps should also experience significant improvement. âWe have a lot of work to do and a lot to do in our state,â Armendariz said.
Wraparound support services increase opportunities
Enter: Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative. COSI was established in 2014 with the aim of increasing the achievement of degrees and diplomas in the state. There are two main components of COSI: its matching scholarship component and the community partnership program. COSI serves approximately 20,000 students in the state, of which 60% are students of color and 73% are Pell-eligible students. The median age of students served by COSI is 24 years old.
Armendariz explained that each year the COSI board allocates a certain amount of funds – last year, $ 7.5 million – and nonprofits apply for these funds, which provide individual correspondence. for scholarships – thus doubling the number of scholarships that can be awarded within the state. âWe’ve been providing these funds since 2014 – and since that time we have provided over $ 66 million in funds,â Armendariz said.
The other branch of COSI is the Community Partnership Program, which provides complementary services to students in need, whether that is to cover childcare costs, transportation or other costs that hamper the ‘graduation by a student. When the programs are combined, Armendariz said students persist in their educational journeys at rates of up to 92%. As of spring 2020, 6,737 post-secondary diplomas had been obtained by students supported by the COSI Matching Scholarships, and 4,287 diplomas had been obtained by students supported by the COSI Community Partner Program. And Armendariz said she hopes that number will double in the next three to five years.
Support systems in action
Beggs at CCA used COSI funds allocated to his community college under the banner of âWorkforce and Community Programsâ and supporting community workforce ready talent. âWe offer everything from painting classes to apprenticeship programs,â Beggs said.
The ACC currently serves 141 students with funding from COSI, with the average age of these students being 37%, 70% female, and an average of three semesters to return to college and complete their degrees. “The average purse [we offer to students from these funds] is $ 3,300 – about $ 1,100 per semester, âBeggs said.
- ?? Offer individual career and study advice.
- ?? Connect individuals to industry and networking events to ensure their professional prospects after graduation.
- ?? Offer scholarships for tuition fees.
- ?? Involve local employers to create learning opportunities in the workforce centers.
- ?? Create widely recognized materials for adult learners.
- ?? Monitor the workload of advisers.
- ?? Offer adult learners an orientation to college programs and ask them for feedback of their early thoughts when they arrive on your campus.
- ?? Build ongoing partnerships between your campus and your community.
Finally, Beggs said everyone knows someone on their campus who goes above and beyond, has personal contact with students and always goes the extra mile for their students. Like all of us, Beggs said, this person is likely suffering from burnout associated with the pandemic – and your institution cannot afford to lose them.
âI encourage you to text, email, or send a note to say ‘thank you’,â Beggs said. This simple action is to “help do what you can to create more of” this person “in your institution. “
Leveraging relationships for persistence
One Million Degrees has served community college students since 2006, 84% of whom identify as Black or Latinx, and 91% of whom come from historically under-represented backgrounds. And students who sign up for OMD’s Global Support Services are 23% more likely to persist and graduate, Gonzalez said.
âThe students are the experts in their own experience. âPuraCarina Gonzalez
OMD has partnered with Adams County Community College to focus on a pilot project for adult learners with some college, but no degree. âWe have to understand that students are the experts in their own experience,â Gonzalez said.
- ?? The students said their professional and academic journeys would have been different if they had been made aware of all of their options, had access to real-world guidance, and had known alternate paths.
- ?? The main barriers to reintegrating into their college trips included the re-enrollment cost of $ 2,000 (added to other life financial concerns, such as a mortgage), availability of transportation, child care, and support. general living expenses. It was a particular challenge for Adams County, said Gonzalez, which is located in a rural area with fewer resources available to students in need.
MITIGATING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON ADULT LEARNERS THROUGH SPECIAL FUNDING, SUPPORT
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected adult learners, and especially adult learners from under-represented ethnic or socio-economic groups. In April 2020, Colorado peaked with its highest unemployment rate on record: 12.1%, with more than 375,000 people losing their jobs.
To help offset the professional toll of the pandemic, COSI approved two new initiatives to support adult learners: the Back to Work program and the Finish What You Started initiative. Both have been approved to provide block grants to institutions and students individually to support community members looking to upgrade their skills, upgrade their skills or graduate as a result of COVID-19.
In a session at the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning annual conference, Cynthia Armendariz, Ph.D., director of the Colorado Council of Higher Education, and Chris Rasmussen, senior director of academic pathways and innovation at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, addressed the specific challenges of adult learners during COVID-19.
Initial funds for the return to work program included $ 900,000 to community colleges that would ensure the completion of 150 students over the next two years. The fellows, six in number, were to use COSI funds and provide the fellowships themselves. The funding could be used for outreach efforts, recruitment or scholarships, Armendariz said.
The Finish What You Started program was offered to students who enrolled in 2019, 2020, or 2021 but did not persist until graduation. The program supports students in two ways: by providing financial assistance with support services such as career planning, student mentoring, and access to public assistance programs, such as transportation assistance, child care, legal aid and housing services, etc.
And Rasmussen said she was in the middle of a series of multi-year professional development sessions for inclusive adult learner service providers to focus on the challenges of this unique population. âOne of my previous roles was to implement the One Million Degrees model on campus, helping others understand how to take OMD’s special sauce and tailor it to their campus resources,â said Rasmussen. The group is thinking about how to take the model associated with One Million Degrees and adapt it to the needs of their individual campus, and will present their findings once the quarter of the year is over.