Going Further to Reach the Goal: SHEEO/ESG’s First Attainment Academy

Friday, December 20, 2019
Matt Gandal
President & CEO

Pablo Picasso famously stated that “goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

Across the nation, forty-four states have set goals for postsecondary credential attainment, mainly by 2025 or 2030. Most states are unfortunately not on track to reach their goals, despite years of concerted efforts and attunement.  State Higher Education Executive Officer’s (SHEEO) Association and ESG’s Attainment Academy is a collaboration of K-12, higher education, workforce leaders and policymakers who are committed to vigorously acting on a set of goals and policy objectives they fervently believe in.

Through the Attainment Academy, Education Strategy Group and SHEEO have brought together seven states – California, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  In this 18-month academy, these states will take bold new strides to meet their attainment goals. The first academy, held Oct 24-25 in New Orleans, sought to ground states in data, through our partnership with NCHEMS, understand gaps, and identify levers that could lead to the most-needed increases in attainment. 

We oriented discussion and learning around three guiding principles: 

  1. Equity – For all states, reaching attainment goals means focusing on populations who have been underserved and who need more support to achieve greater gains. This requires a different mindset and a new way of doing business to effect change.
  2. Economic Imperative – More than ever, postsecondary stakeholders must be focused on responding to employer needs and talent shortages, developing career pathways, ensuring sustainable living wages, and spurring social and economic mobility.
  3. Collective Ownership – This work can not be done in silos. Higher education must work in deep collaboration with K-12 education, workforce leadership, and other branches of state and local government. This is about buy-in, forming new ways to work together, and reaching new heights through shared commitment.

By examining the data, learning from peers across states, and guided team discussions, each state came away with initial priority areas for policy and practice, along with concrete next steps. Themes that emerged from priority areas include:

  • Attention to key populations – such as adults, rural or distressed communities, justice-involved, students of color, and opportunity youth;
  • Prioritizing high-quality credential attainment – how to incorporate them, better align with industry, measure usage, determine quality, and build credential currency;
  • Engaging local/regional communities – through outreach to employers, community leaders, and nonprofits who will take on the goal and lead the work in their area with a keen focus on the needs and strengths of their local community;
  • Increasing affordability – with state grants, such as adult promise programs, to assessment of non-tuition costs to access to other benefits;
  • Accelerating seamless transitions from K-12 – traditional access, dual enrollment, pre-apprenticeships, and other Level Up strategies

States are now working collaboratively across sectors to research, explore, and finalize direction on these priority areas. The next academy will be held in Spring 2020, during which states will develop these priorities into action plans and begin to move on them, with the expectation that implementation will be underway by the third academy meeting.

ESG looks forward to working with state leaders in their efforts to ensure that more students are successfully completing postsecondary education and training programs. Working together, we can build momentum to meet workforce needs and close postsecondary attainment gaps.