Overcoming Barriers in Higher Ed: Strategies for Student Success and Employability:

Changing Higher Education Podcast 157 with Host Dr. Drumm McNaughton and Guests Kathryn Campbell and Dr. Zack Mabel

Table of Contents

Changing Higher Podcast 157 - with guests Kathryn Campbell and Zack Mabel - Overcoming Barriers in Higher Ed: Strategies for Student Success and Employability
Changing Higher Ed Podcast | Drumm McNaughton | The Change Leader

31 May · Episode 157

Overcoming Barriers in Higher Ed: Strategies for Student Success and Employability

37 Min · By Dr. Drumm McNaughton

Zach and Kathryn discuss their most recent study, What Works: 10 Education, Training, and Work-Based Pathway Changes that Lead to Good Jobs.

A new study on what campus leaders can do to help their graduates move into good jobs by age 30 found that the most effective ways for young adults to succeed in the workforce generally involve attaining post-secondary education degrees. The Georgetown Center for Education in the Workforce (CEW)’s “What Works: 10 Education, Training, and Work-Based Pathway Changes that Lead to Good Jobs” determines how much the likelihood of young adults getting a good job can be improved by some specific changes they make with a high school diploma, community college education, and/or university credits.

 

In this podcast, Dr. Drumm McNaughton talks with two CEW professors who worked on the study, Research Professor of Education and Economics Dr. Zack Mabel and Associate Director of Editorial Policy and Senior Editor/Writer Kathryn Campbell. They discuss how they conducted the study, the highlights, what the policy levers and interventions can be to help students make these top 10 pathway changes, some of the barriers campuses might face in achieving them, how higher ed can overcome these challenges, and some successful models.

 

Podcast Highlights

  • The study focuses on scenarios where one change with no predeterminations is introduced and identifies if it improved a young adult’s likelihood of having a good job by age 30. For example, what would happen if a person who started in a four-year program completed their degree instead of stopping out before their mid-20s?

  • The study defines a good job as one that pays a minimum of around $38,000 in 2020 for workers younger than age 35. The median pay is around $57,000 annually. Good jobs also provide health care and retirement benefits, etc.

  • Many of the top 10 effective pathway changes involve attaining post-secondary education. Young adults who enroll before their mid-20s see a 16% point boost in their likelihood of having a good job by age 30. Those who enroll in an AA or certificate program get a 6% point boost. Those who complete an associate’s degree or certification instead of stopping out experience an 8% point boost.

  • For each pathway change, the study asks what policy levers and interventions higher ed institutions can introduce to make them a reality. Examples include expanding recruitment efforts and creating stronger partnerships between high schools and colleges. More outreach and advising can demystify college for students. Providing more financial aid and more information about financial aid can help prospective students make a true risk assessment.

  • Most families are turned off by the tuition price. What an institution’s published or sticker price is and what the net price or out-of-pocket cost students will have to pay can be misleading.

  • Providing more generous financial aid targeted based on need and simple to apply for has a strong positive impact on increasing enrollment and persistence.  For example, The Hill program at the University of Michigan makes students aware of how much financial aid they will receive when they’re considering applying. This has increased the likelihood that students will apply to and enroll in the University of Michigan.

  • Wraparound support programs and comprehensive student support programs like the CUNY ASAP program for the community colleges in New York City is a holistic program that works. The Dell Scholars Program at four-year institutions provides financial aid and individualized continuous advisement in real-time with a full-time staff member. Although expensive, countless studies have demonstrated that the impacts they have in terms of increasing persistence and graduation pay off.

  • The college experience will not be linear for every student. Therefore, strengthen partnerships between two-year and four-year institutions, for example. Students who start off at a two-year institution will have a much easier means of making the leap to a four-year institution.

  • Develop reverse transfer interventions and degree-reclamation policies where students who stopped out before obtaining a four-year degree can still get an associate’s degree if they completed enough credits. Colorado automatically grants associate’s degrees to these students instead of waiting for them to apply or for a college administrator to make them aware of the opportunity.

  • Build stronger and more effective college partnerships between institutions. Help students take advantage of the resources at another institution.

 

About Our Podcast Guests

 

Kathryn Peltier Campbell

Kathryn Peltier Campbell is associate director of editorial policy and senior editor/writer at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Kathryn has extensive experience writing, editing, and directing content development for publications focused on topics such as diversity and equity in postsecondary education and the workforce, higher education’s civic mission, and the value of education in contemporary contexts. Prior to joining CEW, she edited periodicals and reports at the American Association of Colleges and Universities, including the flagship periodical Liberal Education. Kathryn has an MA in English from the University of Virginia, where she also earned a BA with a double major in English and physics.

 

Zack Mabel

Zack Mabel is a research professor of education and economics at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, where he leads research projects that leverage insights from labor and behavioral economics to promote educational opportunity, equity, and economic mobility. His work is motivated by the goal of improving college and later life outcomes for members of historically marginalized groups to achieve a shared vision of economic prosperity in the United States. Prior to joining CEW, he worked most recently as a policy research scientist at the College Board. Zack earned his BA from Brandeis University, MPP from the University of Michigan, and EdD in Quantitative Policy Analysis of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

 

About the Host

Dr. Drumm McNaughton, the host of Changing Higher Ed® Podcast, is a consultant to higher ed institutions in the areas of governance, accreditation, strategy and change, and mergers.

Transcript: Changing Higher Ed Podcast 152 with Host Dr. Drumm McNaughton and Guests Kathryn Campbell and Dr. Zack Mabel

Overcoming Barriers in Higher Ed: Strategies for Student Success and Employability

Welcome to Changing Higher Ed, a podcast dedicated to helping higher education leaders improve their institutions, with your host, Dr. Drumm McNaughton, CEO of the Change Leader, a consultancy that helps higher ed leaders holistically transform their institutions. Learn more at changinghighered.com. And now, here’s your host, Drumm McNaughton.

 

Drumm McNaughton  00:30

Thank you, David.

 

Our guests today are Dr. Zack Mabel and Kathryn Campbell from the Georgetown University Center on Education in the Workforce. Zack is a research professor of education and economics, and he leads research projects that leverage insights from labor and behavioral economics to promote educational opportunity, equity, and economic mobility. Kathryn is an associate director of editorial policy and senior editor/writer, and she co-authors many of CEW’s publications.

 

The Georgetown Center for Education in the Workforce’s research focuses on three core areas: jobs, skills, and equity, with the goal of better aligning education and training with workforce and labor market demand. Zack and Kathryn join me today to discuss their most recent study, What Works: 10 Education, Training, and Work-Based Pathway Changes that Lead to Good Jobs. The report highlights three basic pathways: high school, community college, and university. Today, we’ll focus on what universities can do to improve enrollment and retention so their graduates can move into good jobs earlier in their careers.

 

Zack and Kathryn, welcome to the show again.

 

Kathryn Campbell  01:49

Thank you. Thanks for having us.

 

Zack Mabel  01:50

Yes, thanks so much.

 

Drumm McNaughton  01:52

I shouldn’t say welcome again to you, Zack. This is your first time. But, Kathryn, I remember very fondly our conversation that we had a few months back.

 

Kathryn Campbell  02:01

That’s right. It was about a year ago.

 

Drumm McNaughton  02:03

We’re going to talk about your recent report that just came out, “10 Pathways.” Before we get into that, please give our audience a little background on who you are and why this report was important for you to do if you would. Zack, you want to go first?

 

Zack Mabel  02:20

Sure. I’m a research professor at the Center on Education in the Workforce at Georgetown University. I’ve been working to create opportunities for upward economic mobility for close to 20 years now. While I was in graduate school, I started working in the nonprofit world on workforce development and asset building initiatives for low-wage workers and their families.

 

It was through that work and some inspiring mentorship that I received that I came to appreciate the potential for higher education to be a powerful gateway to economic opportunity in our society. I’ve devoted the past decade and a half to researching and advocating for evidence-based policies and interventions that show the greatest promise for increasing access to educational and economic opportunities in the United States.

 

Drumm McNaughton  03:08

That’s great. Kathryn?

 

Kathryn Campbell  03:10

I am the associate director of editorial policy and writer/editor at the Center. Like Zack, I’ve been in this world for about 15 years. I came to this work in an indirect way. I have a master’s degree in English with a focus on American Studies. While I was in that program, I became very interested in the ideas of American pluralism, what makes a diverse democracy work for everyone living in it. I wanted to pursue work that was meaningful to me in that area.

 

When I entered the workforce, the things that crystallized for me were, firstly, that it’s important that we respect and appreciate the very broad range of contributions people make to the American project. And secondly, the importance of having doors to opportunity that are open to everyone, regardless of where they came from and what their backgrounds are.

 

I started working as an editor on publications focused on diversity and equitable opportunity in post-secondary education specifically, and eventually found myself here at CEW where I write and edit reports with great researchers like Zack on these topics.

 

Drumm McNaughton  04:15

Well, to both of you, you picked an incredible topic and one that’s very timely right now. There are so many things going on with the economy and especially with people’s perception of higher education. The positive perception of higher education is down to 41% or 42% across the board; those aren’t good numbers. In my lifetime—and I am a little older than the two of you and have the gray hairs to prove it as well—I’ve never seen it this low before.

 

So, let’s get into your report, “The 10 Pathways.” Would one of you tell us a little bit about how you came to this idea and what your findings are? Let’s just freeform it and see where it goes.

 

Kathryn Campbell  05:05

The focus of our report is What Works, and it covers Ten Education, Training, and Work-Based Pathway Changes That Lead To Good Jobs. So as the title implies, we came to this report with an interest in determining how much the likelihood of young adults getting a good job could be improved by some specific changes in their trajectory in early adulthood.

 

We asked, what if we made one change and didn’t predetermine anything else that would happen to a young person after they made that change, but looked at whether it improved their likelihood of having a good job at age 30?

 

For example, we asked, what would happen if a person who started in a four-year program completed their degree instead of stopping out before their mid-20s? Or what the impact would be if we had someone who worked in a blue-collar occupation at a young agency rather than an occupation that paid lower wages than blue-collar work generally does? We looked specifically at how these kinds of changes would, as I said, affect the likelihood of getting into a good job at age 30.

 

So what do we mean by a good job? We recognize that job quality has many dimensions, and those include wages but are not solely limited to wages. But for the purposes of this research, we defined a good job as a job that pays a minimum of around $38,000 in 2020 for workers younger than age 35.

 

For these 30-year-olds we’re most interested in, the median pay is around $57,000 annually. We found that workers who get good jobs are also more likely to have access to health care, retirement benefits, and other aspects of work that people tend to associate with a good job.

 

We looked at the routes to those good jobs primarily through three pathways: the high school pathway, the middle-skills pathway, which is some college or an associate’s degree, and the bachelor’s degree or higher pathway. We found that the ten pathway changes that increase the likelihood of getting a good job the most are available to young people who are currently starting on each of those pathways, for example, some who intend to pursue higher education and some who don’t.

 

The differences include workforce-oriented changes, like working in STEM or in a blue-collar field instead of a low-paying job, concentrating in CTE in high school, and avoiding gaps in employment as a young adult. But even with those opportunities for people who are on that high school pathway, we found that many of the most effective pathway changes—our top 10 that we focus on in the report—involve attaining post-secondary education, whether that’s beginning on that associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree path or completing a degree.

 

We know there are many, many young adults who are qualified to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program but don’t expect to do so before their mid-20s. If those young adults did enroll, we would see a 16% point boost in their likelihood of having a good job at age 30.

 

For those who would enroll in an AA or certificate program, we would see a 6% point boost in the likelihood of them having a good job. Looking at those who already are on the middle-skills pathway or intend to enter the middle-skills pathway, we would expect that those who complete an associate’s degree instead of stopping out would get an 8% point boost.

 

Those who complete a bachelor’s degree would get a 14% point boost. For young adults who are already on or expect to enter the bachelor’s degree pathway but don’t expect to earn a degree by their mid-20s, those who complete an associate’s degree instead of stopping out will see an 8% point boost and those who complete a bachelor’s degree will get a 16% point boost.

 

Those are nice additions. Of course, if we found that young adults made multiple changes, like entering a BA pathway and completing BA, they would get even higher boosts. So we were looking primarily at the individual pathway changes but also looked at layering some of those.

 

Drumm McNaughton  09:32

Okay, so what I’m hearing you say is, for those kids up to their early 20s who get a chance and can complete an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, their chance of getting into a better-paying job is significantly higher. Did I understand that correctly?

 

Zack Mabel  09:58

That’s exactly right. An important piece of context is that a college investment is not risk-free. If we’re talking about earning a degree as a metric of success, it’s not an insurance policy where you’re definitely going to find a good job. There’s quite a bit of variation in the economic payoff, even with the bachelor’s degree, where individuals are much more likely to find themselves in a good job than others.

 

But, broadly speaking, what we found is that if you take youth and young adults who otherwise have a very low likelihood of getting a good job due to various challenges, like a lack of access to educational opportunities, putting them on a different pathway that either gets them in the door to college and/or helps them complete college certainly increases their chances of finding themselves in a good job significantly. However, there’s still no guarantee that they are definitely going to land themselves a good job by age 30.

 

Drumm McNaughton  11:23

Well, that makes sense. Did you see colleges reaching out to high schools to help prepare students while they’re still in high school?

 

Zack Mabel  11:37

We didn’t examine specific interventions like the one you just described. So, instead, we built a policy simulation model that changed based on the experiences of the young adult. For example, you can have someone who’s expected to graduate high school but then immediately enters the workforce in a low-wage job, and then you put them on the middle-skills pathway. How does that change their likelihood of earning a credential and finding themselves in a good job down the line?

 

The question then becomes, what are the policy levers and interventions that could actually make that pathway change real for an individual? As you just described, it can be expanding recruitment efforts on the part of institutions and creating stronger partnerships between high schools and colleges so that students, especially students from low-income families and underrepresented communities, become familiar with what post-secondary institutions are available to them.

 

It can involve demystifying what the college-going experience is. That is one of the specific policy interventions we provide on how institutions, local communities, states, and the federal government can work together to create a comprehensive policy framework that would create these types of pathway changes and make them much more possible and viable for individuals.

 

Drumm McNaughton  13:19

Kathryn, what’s another example of these interventions that colleges and universities could do early on to help support their growth and enrollment?

 

Kathryn Campbell  13:29

We suspect that one thing that would help bring about these changes that we modeled would be to provide more outreach and advising that demystifies college for students and to provide more financial aid for students and more information about financial aid. That way, they can be better prepared to enter college, understand the risk assessment that Zack was referring to earlier, and can make an informed decision about the amount of risk they’re taking on and how that can pay them off.

 

A lot of people are deterred from pursuing college because the risk seems so large when there are different pathways for people to enter college. There needs to be better pathways for people to enter college and better ways to make it affordable for students.

 

Drumm McNaughton  14:20

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we are unfortunately down by well over a million students. I read something this morning where the number was 1.3 or 1.4 billion, and we’re approaching the enrollment cliff, which is what people are calling it. So it’s no wonder folks are concerned about taking on this kind of risk if they don’t see a good-paying job in the end.

 

Plus, the parents of these kids coming into school nowadays lived through the Great Recession. They had good jobs. They had a good education. But it didn’t seem to do them any good. So they’re coming in with a bias about why they should take on this risk that could potentially help me. What would you say to folks like that?

 

Zack Mabel  15:08

There’s another element here, which is that if you don’t have a lot of familiarity with the college experience—either because you’re the first person in your family to go to school or lots of people in your social network haven’t gone through the rigmarole of the process before—and you see the published prices of those institutions, it can be incredibly shocking.

 

But that’s not necessarily the price that a particular student or their family is going to have to pay. So this wedge between what the published or sticker price of an institution is and what the net price or out-of-pocket cost they’re going to have to actually pay to attend that institution can be quite dramatic and misleading to individuals when they’re thinking through whether the cost for college is a worthwhile investment for them to make.

 

When you turn to the research and what it tells us, addressing the affordability crisis in higher education is absolutely critical to expanding access and outcomes in higher education. One of the things that we know is that, yes, providing more generous financial aid, especially if it’s targeted based on need and is simple to apply for, has a strong positive impact on increasing enrollment and persistence.

 

At the same time, we know the success of interventions like The Hill program at the University of Michigan, for example, which doesn’t provide students with any additional financial aid. Instead, it makes students aware of how much financial aid they’re going to receive not after they’ve been admitted, which is customary practice right now, but actually at the time they’re considering applying to Cigna significantly. This has increased the likelihood that students will apply to and enroll in the University of Michigan.

 

Students who would otherwise either foreclose on the idea of going to college because they misunderstood the price or they opted to go to what appeared to be a less expensive institution than a flagship university actually make very different decisions that usually tend to pay off in terms of a higher likelihood of graduation and higher labor market returns if they do graduate.

 

The financial aid package they were going to receive, which would have been exactly the same, needs to be reframed, repackaged, and made transparent and predictable to an individual so they’re not guessing how much support they’re going to receive to attend college after they have already applied and been admitted or not. That’s a simple but impactful change that can be made to how financial aid is administered. A lot of institutions could very easily implement it and have a dramatic impact on what the college-going experience is like for individuals.

 

Drumm McNaughton  18:26

It does seem so simple to do. In line with your ten pathways, what are some of the other barriers, and what have you seen that can overcome them?

 

Zack Mabel  18:40

There are barriers on the access and enrollment side. We’ve talked a little bit about that in regard to expanding recruitment, creating stronger partnerships between high schools and colleges, and providing financial aid interventions. But there’s a whole host of other obstacles that students experience when they are on campus that often stand in the way of students actually earning a degree.

 

A lot of the work that we’ve done in this report shows that even if you’re on the middle-skills pathway or the bachelor’s degree pathway, these young adults have a very high likelihood of not completing a credential, even if they enter those programs by age 22. But if they do complete that credential, their likelihood of having a good job at age 30 increases significantly.

 

So addressing the problem of students not completing a credential goes beyond financial aid and interventions that are focused purely on providing additional academic support. We’re talking about holistic strategies that really acknowledge the multi-dimensional nature and obstacles that students are experiencing in college, which is why you see wraparound support programs and comprehensive student support programs like the CUNY ASAP program at the community colleges in New York City.

 

There’s also the Dell Scholars Program at four-year institutions. In addition to financial aid, it provides intensive, individualized continuous advisement, coaching, and monitoring in real-time with a full-time staff member at the institution who can help students with whatever challenges present themselves that usually spring up in unpredicted ways. There can be a transportation, childcare, or food insecurity barrier. Someone may have lost their housing or is experiencing a mental health issue.

 

The challenges that can prevent students from earning a credential can take many, many different forms. It’s one of the reasons why you see these all-encompassing programs demonstrate tremendous success in helping students persist and complete their degrees.

 

On the one hand, they’re expensive. They’re much more expensive than just delivering financial aid to students, for example. But countless studies have demonstrated that the impacts they have in terms of increasing persistence and graduation really pay off. There’s a positive return on investment with those programs. We’re not going to address the college dropout crisis in this country at scale without significantly ramping up the efforts of implementing these comprehensive types of programs.

 

Kathryn Campbell  21:55

Going back to your question about what you would say to people considering college and have skepticism about it, Zack raised the point about clear communications about affordability and stronger connections in the community. All of these things are absolutely critical. It’s also important to recognize that a bachelor’s degree is still the most reliable pathway to getting a good job.

 

So, yes, absolutely, people with degrees struggled during the Great Recession. But having that degree makes you more likely to be employed and to have higher median earnings. That message is getting lost a bit in the debate over the value of bachelor’s degrees. Of course, there are many nonpecuniary benefits of having a society that has broad access to higher education, whether that’s a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or a certificate. It improves the economic performance of the society. It also improves the civic health of society by giving people the tools they need to succeed in the economy and to participate in a civil society.

 

Drumm McNaughton  23:12

It’s interesting that you bring that up. I just released a podcast today with Jeff Scheuer. His first book was The Sound Bite Society on how television helps the right and hurts the left. But his current one is Inside The Liberal Arts: Critical Thinking and Citizenship. He talks about the three domains we must have in the US or any society. There’s a civic, economic, and cultural domain. What we’re talking about is the economic domain, being able to find a good job, etc. But we forget about the civic domain, which you just brought up for us, Kathryn.

 

How can you be a good citizen? It doesn’t necessarily mean you wear a gun that everybody can see on your belt, and you’re here to police everyone. It’s voting, jury duty, petitioning, and demonstrating against things you don’t believe in. These are all things in the civic domain.

 

Then there’s the cultural, the arts and the sports, etc. We have to educate on all those. I think we lose that broader perspective if we don’t give folks a good undergraduate experience, which means getting them into college, keeping them in college, and helping them graduate. There is that maturation process that’s necessary for being a good citizen. This all makes sense.

 

 

Kathryn Campbell  24:50

It does, and it’s important to recognize that those outcomes are mutually reinforcing. There are some arguments that say your improved economic status helps you participate as a citizen. But it’s also very possible to be a fully participating, fully contributing citizen without a post-secondary degree. The post-secondary degree is just there as one of the many tools to help people become more empowered in how they participate in civil society. On the whole, it’s a good thing for individuals to have access to those tools.

 

It also has positive impacts across the board for society. But in order for that to work, it has to be accessible to everyone who wants to get a post-secondary education. And we must have alternative pathways to good jobs and empowerment for people who don’t.

 

What we’re really interested in is the role that education plays in all of that and making that more accessible to all students who are interested in accessing it through post-secondary education. So, hopefully, some of the things we are raising in the podcast and in our report—which I absolutely encourage people to download from our website, and it’s freely available—will help college administrators and boards think about these issues in a really broad way.

 

Drumm McNaughton  26:16

I think you’re absolutely right on that. I’ll go back to something Zack said a little while ago. You must have a holistic approach to these problems. It has to start when kids are in high school and even earlier than that. We have to change the mentalities to where kids want to go to college, and they see the benefit of going to college and making it affordable for them.

 

I haven’t heard of anyone else doing what the University of Michigan is doing as far as helping prospective students understand what they’re actually going to pay before they sign on the dotted line, and that includes the scholarships, etc. To me, that’s a no-brainer. It also must involve all the things that are necessary to keep people in college, get them to graduate, and see them employed in a productive job. It’s holistic.

 

Zack Mabel  27:08

It absolutely is holistic. One of the aspects of creating this comprehensive strategy that we talk about in our work is acknowledging the fact that, for many young adults who are going to college, their college experience is not going to be linear. It’s not going to be limited to attending a single institution. So, part of the solution framework that we talked about and that we advocate is also about strengthening partnerships between college institutions, in particular between two-year and four-year institutions. That way, students who start off at a two-year institution on the middle-skills pathway have a much easier means of making the leap to a four-year institution if they aspire to do so. We know that many students who start off at two-year institutions do, in fact, aspire to earn a bachelor’s degree.

 

The reverse is true as well. There are a lot of students who either find themselves enrolled at four-year institutions or were enrolled at a four-year institution who have stopped out and haven’t earned any college credential along the way. But they have invested considerably in their college education and have accumulated a lot of credits towards a credential.

 

So there needs to be strengthened efforts towards developing reverse transfer interventions and degree-reclamation policies that honor what students have accomplished at a four-year institution even if they didn’t pick up that bachelor’s degree and confer them with an associate’s degree when they have in fact completed the requirements to doing so.

 

Colorado stands out as a strong example in this space where they automatically grant associate’s degrees to students who stopped out from four-year institutions when they’ve completed the minimum academic requirements to earn that degree. They don’t wait for a student to apply for an associate’s degree or for a college administrator to make the student aware of what the process is for going down that path. They just give them that credential if, in fact, they’ve done the work to get it.

 

We know from our research that you have a much higher likelihood of getting a good job if you have a college credential than if you don’t, even if you were starting down the bachelor’s degree pathway and never had the intention of earning an associate’s degree. That associate’s degree does help you out in the labor market down the line, and you’re better off having it than if you have no credential at all.

 

Part of the solution is about building stronger and more effective college partnerships between institutions and not thinking that all the work is supposed to be done within the boundaries of a particular campus. We’re talking about pathway changes. We’re talking about how you can help a student who’s at one institution take advantage of the resources that are available at another nearby institution to give them the best opportunity they can have to be successful in their life down the line.

 

That involves breaking down silos across domains. It’s about creating stronger connections between education and employers. It’s also about breaking down silos within particular domains. How do you break down the barriers to collaborate between one institution and another one that’s across the block?

 

Drumm McNaughton  30:36

This all makes so much sense. I can’t believe we’ve already blown through our time limit. This has been fascinating to me, folks. I appreciate it. What are three takeaways that university presidents and boards need to do?

 

Kathryn Campbell  30:52

Very briefly, we would recommend that, as Zack was saying, they look toward how they can coordinate more effectively between different service providers and actors. College presidents should look at what other post-secondary institutions can complement their own offerings. How can we be better connected? How can we help students find those pathways and junctures to get the education they need through both of us?

 

Identify local or regional employers who could engage with you to create more meaningful work opportunities and work-based learning opportunities for students during college and streamline that transition to the workforce for alumni. What social service providers can you partner with to address obstacles related to childcare, housing insecurity, food insecurity, and the basic needs that Zack mentioned earlier?

 

Recognize that the individuals who stand to benefit the most from a pathway to change may be the least likely to sign up for it on their own, either because of a lack of information or because they think, “Oh, that’s not for me” or “I don’t have the time.” Policies and interventions are most effective when they’re intrusive or required rather than voluntary, for example, automatic degree reclamation policies where that degree gets conferred. In other words, not waiting for a student to apply for a degree if the student already has those credits. Conferral is one example of that.

 

Embrace the KISS principle, keep it simple, and look at how you can streamline the college-going experience on your campus to reduce the complexity and number of decision points that students might be struggling with at critical junctures. We know that students are going to be making all kinds of consequential decisions about their futures in college, like what they want to major in and what they want to do afterward.

 

We don’t want those decisions to be focused on things that are all about navigating administrative barriers. We want them to be able to focus on the decisions that are most important to them rather than on how they pursue those big decisions. So, making sure the administrative pieces of the puzzle more easily fit together for students is really a key thing. Zack, you want to add anything?

 

Zack Mabel  33:13

No, I think that’s a great synopsis.

 

Drumm McNaughton  33:15

Yes. And with that, I’m going to add one thing to that last point you just made, Kathryn. Folks, you have to ask students what they’re struggling with. The students who are coming through college are Gen Z. We’re even starting to get a little Gen A in there as well. They’re different from who we were. They have different challenges than what we had. Ask these students what they need help with. They’ll tell you.

 

So, folks, what’s next for you? What’s going on in your life? What do you want to chat about?

 

Zack Mabel  33:55

Yeah. I’ll put a little plug in for something we’re actively working on right now. Tying it back to the conversation that we’ve had, Kathryn and I both mentioned that a strong connection between colleges in the labor market can considerably increase the likelihood of that individual securing a good job or advancing in their career.

 

To help strengthen those connections, we’re working on a project right now to measure the level of alignment between the fields that graduates specifically have—typically middle skills programs like certificates and associate’s degrees—what they’re being prepared for, and the forecasted job openings in local communities over the next decade.

 

Through this project we’re actively working on right now, we’re examining the levels of alignment and local labor markets across the country. We’ll create a searchable online database of alignment measures so folks can see how their community or their institution is performing, how well it’s set up for over the next decade, or where the jobs of the future will be.

 

We hope this work will equip college leaders and regional planners with information that’s not typically available at the local level to better align programs with projected labor demand. In doing so, we hope to expand economic opportunity for individuals by creating a stronger bridge between education and employment. We’re very excited about this work. T

 

here are obviously strong connections between the report we just put out and this work. We hope it will be a strong resource for folks in the field to think about how they can be responsive to the needs of employers in the labor market in order to better equip students for what’s likely to come in their future after completing their studies.

 

Drumm McNaughton  35:42

That is fascinating. I’m detecting a little bit of a thread here. Kathryn?

 

Kathryn Campbell  35:49

I’m working with Zack on that report. So I’m very excited about it.

 

Drumm McNaughton  35:54

When is the new report coming out?

 

Zack Mabel  35:56

I’m guessing it will probably hit the press in early 2024.

 

Drumm McNaughton  36:03

Gosh, will it be that long before I can have you back on the show? I’m disappointed.

 

Zack Mabel  36:07

It seems like we’re making it an annual thing.

 

Drumm McNaughton  36:09

Let’s just do that. Excellent. Kathryn and Zack, thanks for coming onto the show. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. I look forward to the next time.

 

Zack Mabel  36:18

Thanks so much for the opportunity. I appreciate it.

 

Kathryn Campbell  36:20

Yes. Thank you.

 

Drumm McNaughton  36:23

Thanks for listening today. I’d like to give a special thank you to Dr. Zack Mabel and Catherine Campbell from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce for sharing their latest study, “What Works: Ten Education, Training, and Work-Based Pathway Changes That Lead to Good Jobs” and what universities can do to assist students to become more career ready.

 

Join us next week when we welcome back Tom Netting, president of TEN Government Strategies. He’ll join us to give us an update on what’s going on in Washington and at the Department of Education. As you may know, the Department is embarking on another round of Negotiated Rulemaking, and Tom will bring us up to date on that and many other things that can affect your colleges and universities. Until next time.

 

37:13

Changing Higher Ed is a production of the Change Leader, a consultancy committed to transforming higher ed institutions. Find more information about this topic and show notes on this episode at changinghighered.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe to the show. We would also value your honest rating and review. Email any questions, comments, or recommendations for topics or guests to podcast@changinghighered.com. Changing Higher Ed is produced and hosted by Dr. Drumm McNaughton. Post-production is by David L. White.

 

 

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