Provides research-based policy recommendations for states, community colleges, and community-based organizations that aim to increase postsecondary access and credential attainment for underserved populations such as immigrants, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, and youth disconnected from school and work.

“Sixty-five percent of all jobs in the United States will require a postsecondary degree or credential by 2020, but at the current rate that postsecondary institutions are awarding degrees, the United States is at risk to fall short by 5 million workers….In light of [this], increasing national attention has focused on the importance of postsecondary access and success for all students” (p.6).

“In particular, there are populations—low-income youth and adults, young people ages 16 to 24 who are disconnected from school and work (often referred to as ‘opportunity youth’), justice-involved youth, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, and immigrants—for whom crossing the threshold into the middle class remains out of reach. For youth and adults from these populations, postsecondary credential attainment can increase their chances of developing the skills and competencies necessary to fully participate in [the] economy and share in its growth. The challenge, however, is that these very populations have been among the least well served in [the] nation’s higher education system, in terms of both completion and employment outcomes…

In this paper, [the author] posits that paying attention to equity issues will help the United States reach its national credential attainment goals.…[To] level the playing field, [the authors believe that it is important to]…understand how current systems and policies facilitate or stymie access to and completion of postsecondary credentials with labor market value for specific population groups.…JFF elaborates on over a decade of work supporting community college access and completion to offer a more inclusive policy approach” (p.6). This work includes research studies, legislation, and plans from education boards.

“[T]his paper focuses specifically on policy recommendations for opportunity youth, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, and immigrants. The recommendations are intended for states, colleges, and community-based organizations committed to improving educational and economic outcomes for underserved populations” (p.6).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Framing the Opportunity: Eight State Policy Recommendations that Support Postsecondary Credential Completion for Underserved Populations

Major Findings & Recommendations

The authors include eight major policy recommendations: • “Political leadership and commitment. Make improving postsecondary outcomes for underrepresented and underserved populations a state priority. State and system leadership can set the expectation that raising success rates in aggregate is insufficient if there are still access and completion gaps for the most underserved populations” (p.12). • “Systems and capacity use. Examine enrollment, retention, and completion data for…underserved populations to identify access and achievement gaps and set improvement targets. Because they often aren’t counted or identified as such, members of the underserved populations…are effectively invisible to the systems that could help them” (p.14). • “Strong on-ramps. Encourage or require the development of stronger on-ramps into postsecondary education from the institutions, organizations, and systems that work with underserved populations...Since many of the populations discussed in this paper are not coming directly from high school, they need on-ramps that meet them where they are, such as alternative high school diploma programs, high school equivalency programs, ESL programs, or adult education” (p.16). • “Ongoing intensive student support. Encourage or require ongoing, intensive supports, including transition counseling, career advising, academic advising, and non-academic support designed to address the unique needs of underrepresented populations” (p.19). • “Comprehensive financial aid. Make postsecondary education more affordable for underserved populations by ensuring access to in-state tuition, financial aid and scholarships, public benefits, and emergency funds” (p.20). • “Robust career pathways. Create robust career pathways with multiple exit and entry points as well as flexible learning options that help underserved populations balance work obligations and educational goals…Policy can promote robust career pathways that include stackable credentials, flexible learning options, and the ability to earn transferable credit and receive credit for prior” (p.22-23). • “Braided funding. Promote and facilitate the use of braided funding to increase the resources available for underserved populations” (p.25). • “Capacity building and continuous improvement. Build the capacity of colleges and partner organizations to test and scale innovations for improving postsecondary success for underserved populations” (p.26). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)