These national efforts aim to close the gap in student achievement

While Upwardly Global identified one-third of community college students as immigrants, 80% of respondents said their community college needs to improve its operations to meet their needs.

The effort to elevate student outcomes across race, ethnicity, income and other metrics has reached beyond the college and university level.

A pair of non-profit organizations are creating battle-tested blueprints to raise the bar of achievement for untraditional student populations by gathering insight from a diverse range of higher education stakeholders or curating the collaboration of different state education systems.

The revamped focus on college completion among all facets of the student body derives from two trends hurting the health of enrollment in higher education: students increasingly stopping out of college and institutions scrambling to better their support services for those from underrepresented backgrounds.

For example, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that there are currently 40.4 million Americans who stopped out of college after earning some credentials, partially thanks to another 3.6% spike in stop-outs in July 2021.

“Growing numbers of stop-outs and fewer returning students have contributed to the broader enrollment declines in recent years,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the NSCRC. “While our latest enrollment report suggests this trend may be stabilizing, it is still uncertain when or how colleges might return to pre-pandemic levels.

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Complete College America bands 42 states together to increase equitable student outcomes

In order to close institutional performance gaps and re-center the college experience around the student, Complete College America bands state, city and district school systems together. And With New Jersey’s inclusion today, the non-profit has added its 42nd state member. Other notable city and district systems that are also members include the City University of New York (CUNY) and D.C.

Members of Complete College America work to improve student outcomes on three fronts: policy, perspective and practice. Specifically, the organization helps state systems create more affordable models of tuition to attract more students and help center systems around the student experience.

“Our state is committed to making college more affordable and accessible while also implementing proven reforms in instruction, student support and career preparation to give every learner the resources and support to complete college,” said Dr. Brian K. Bridges, Secretary of Higher Education for New Jersey, in a press release. “Joining the CCA Alliance will help us to accelerate and sustain our progress as well as ensure that we can make good on the promise that every New Jerseyan, regardless of life circumstances, has the opportunity for a life-changing credential.”

Several national foundations help fund the nonprofit, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education and USA Funds, Inc.

Upwardly Global identifies how to meet immigrant-origin students’ untapped potential

Immigrant-origin students have accounted for 80% of the overall increase in U.S. college enrollment in the past two decades, according to Migration Policy. One-third of community college students just so happen to be of immigrant origin. However, Upwardly Global’s most recent report found that almost 80% of respondents said their community college needs to improve its operations to meet their needs.

As a result, Upwardly Global worked with over 80 college practitioners in California and Texas, hosting interviews and in-depth focus groups to understand best what community colleges can do to decrease the barriers present for immigrants and refugees.

“This report underscores the critical need to invest in the community college system, which acts as a vital and accessible pathway to workforce inclusion for immigrant communities, offering insights that dismantle barriers and unlock untapped potential,” said Jina Krause-Vilmar, Upwardly Global President and CEO.

1. Increased focus on short-term credentials: South Texas College has partnered with Google in light of increased demand for students seeking short-term certificate programs to quickly enter the workforce in response to the post-pandemic job market.

2. Data collection: Austin Community College is optimizing student success metrics by considering employers’ job placement data and other insight from its career services department and career pathways ambassadors.

3. Emphasis on case managers and career navigators: Career navigators can help students deal with specific legal challenges by finding community support systems.

4. Building trust and a sense of community: Advisors can help students navigate their career goals compared to the college’s certificate programs and help mediate student expectations and career pathways.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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