Attainment Academy: Achieving Equitable Economic Recovery through Postsecondary Attainment

Education Strategy Group (ESG) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) are bringing together a second cohort of the Attainment Academy to support states in their efforts to put equitable attainment at the center of their state’s COVID-19 recovery strategy.

As leaders grapple with the devastating impact the pandemic has had on our citizens and economies, it is critical that state leaders prioritize postsecondary attainment strategies as a central component of their COVID-19 recovery efforts. This already difficult context for leadership decision-making is further compounded by the state and federal context. While the new federal stimulus counteracted some of the expected cuts to higher education funding in 2021, approximately half of states experienced some drop in state appropriations. And, anecdotally, higher education leaders acknowledge conversations about strategic use of stimulus to improve student success are limited, with the majority of leaders focused on getting the funds distributed as quickly as possible. With so many competing priorities for their time and energy, purposeful decision-making to promote postsecondary success and attainment has the potential to be sidelined. 

The first Attainment Academy, which brought together 6 peer states—Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and Tennessee—to set a concrete plan to meet their attainment goals, demonstrated that the attainment agenda is still relevant, if not more relevant, amidst COVID-19, but adjustments are necessary to succeed. By the end of the first Academy, each state had pivoted their original plans, which were set pre-pandemic, to a recovery-oriented agenda. Better reaching and serving workers that had been displaced by the pandemic, providing equitable opportunities and supports, and identifying and promoting quality non-degree credentials all emerged as salient recovery strategies. Indiana’s priorities are laid out in the plan to the left and the additional states’ plans are linked at the bottom of the page.

This new cohort of states, which includes cross-agency teams from Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri and Montana, will have meaningful spaces to learn and receive support from their peers and national experts to: 

  • Identify and adopt a discrete set of bold and actionable recovery strategies that address the most significant problems of closing racial equity gaps and better serving displaced adult learners;
  • Explore and maximize the use of new federal priorities, including new stimulus money, competitive grants and/or HEA reauthorization to close equity gaps by race, ethnicity, and adult learner status. 
  • Disaggregate attainment goals to identify and set specific targets to improve equity among groups that higher education system has traditionally marginalized; and 
  • Broaden and deepen support for attainment efforts among policymakers, institutional leadership, faculty, and other key constituents and stakeholders in preparation for the 2022 or 2023 legislative session.

In support of these goals, state teams will receive tailored technical assistance, which will include direct and routine engagement from an assigned attainment coach hired through the project; support from national data and equity experts to help disaggregate attainment goals and ensure strategies are evidence-based; Exclusive access to workshops, webinars and multi-state convenings that put forward bold strategies to accelerate COVID-19 recovery and offer opportunities to cross-pollinate ideas across an intimate group of states; opportunities to foster more informal, cross-state relationships focused on recovery and attainment strategies through planned role-alike (e.g. SHEEO-to-SHEEO, legislator-to-legislator, etc.) meetings; and facilitation of in-state meetings to develop and refine strategies and engage with and build ownership among a broader group of constituents in the state.

North CarolinaNew JerseyTennesseeLouisianaMichigan