A postsecondary degree or credential is increasingly necessary for success in today's job market. That said, postsecondary attainment by underrepresented students continues to lag when compared to their peers. These resources provide recommendations and evidence to help policymakers increase rates of graduation and credential attainment among low-income and underprepared students, including immigrants, ex-offenders, opportunity youth, and adults without high school credentials.

Framing the Opportunity: Eight State Policy Recommendations that Support Postsecondary Credential Completion for Underserved Populations. 2017. This paper provides policy recommendations for states, community colleges, and community-based organizations that want to increase postsecondary access and credential attainment for immigrants, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, and youth who are not working or in school. Recommendations include to: “examine enrollment, retention, and completion data…to identify access and achievement gaps and set improvement targets”; “encourage or require ongoing, intensive supports, including…career advising…and non-academic support designed to address the unique needs of underrepresented populations”; and “create robust career pathways…that help underserved populations balance work obligations and educational goals.”

Equity Measures in State Outcomes-Based Funding: Incentives for Public Colleges to Support Low-Income and Underprepared Students. 2017. This report discusses the shift toward outcomes-based or performance-based funding within the public postsecondary education system, and how it may lead colleges or technical schools to increase selectivity in admissions. It also describes how policymakers can include equity measures in their funding systems to ensure that low-income and underprepared students are not adversely affected by this shift. For example, the report recommends that states “make at least some equity measures…mandatory, rather than optional.” It also recommends that they “examine the best practices emerging from other states and develop or refine their policies accordingly.”

New Evidence on Integrated Career Pathways: Final Impact Report for Accelerating Opportunity. 2017. This report assesses the impact of the Accelerating Opportunity (AO) initiative, an integrated career pathway program with stackable industry-recognized credentials, on the education and employment outcomes of underprepared students and adults without high school credentials. The study was conducted in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana between 2012 and 2014. The authors find that “AO had a positive impact on the number of college-awarded credentials earned”, and that “in most cases, AO students earned more credentials while taking fewer credits”. However, the authors also note that “the positive outcomes…did not always translate into labor market gains in the observed timeframe.”