DesignForScale Initiative: Resources and Services

Postsecondary State Policy

Strengthening State Policies to Advance Postsecondary Success and Careers

Advising states and community college systems on developing accelerated pathways through community college and strengthening policies to help more students graduate with a high-value credential.

Michael Lawrence Collins
Vice President, Building Educational Pathways
617.728.4446 x190

DesignForScale Initiative: Resources and Services

Download a printable PDF about DesignForScale.

Check out the new DesignForScale Infographic!

Jobs for the Future provides a comprehensive suite of technical assistance, resources, and policy guidance to support state scale up of campus-based efforts that can help millions of community college students graduate and earn a livable wage. JFF’s resources and services are designed to help all the key state actors create the policy conditions within which community colleges can implement evidence-based, institution-wide innovations. The DesignForScale suite of tools, services, and policy guidance helps states to:

  • Develop visionary, integrated agendas to prioritize college completion for low-income students and students of color to help them earn family-sustaining wages.
  • Set policies that support community colleges as they implement evidence-based, institution-wide innovations at scale.
  • Create coalitions and venues that bring together diverse and influential stakeholders united in improving student success.
  • Align state and institutional policy to drive change.
  • Use data and evidence to help stakeholders understand the need for improved student success, identify effective solutions, and evaluate impact.
  • Create connections between state peers, national experts and the latest research and innovations.

Key components of DesignForScale include:

Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success

Jobs for the Future established a national brain trust to identify high-priority policy solutions to barriers that inadvertently or directly block students from graduating and earning credentials. The Trust comprises four task forces that meet regularly and provide policy guidance and direction on redesign of developmental education, design and implementation of pathways to graduation and credentials, transfer of credits, and outcomes-based funding. 

DesignForScale Toolkit for States

Jobs for the Future has developed a DesignForScale Toolkit to help states use a step-by-step approach to develop coherent policies that enable community colleges to reconfigure the student experience. The steps and tools include:

Step 1: Assess the state policy environment. To kick off the process of prioritizing policy changes, JFF encourages states to establish a diverse and broadly representative team charged with analyzing the existing policy environment and how it supports student success. The team develops a process for collecting college input, which might include listening tours, site visits, and virtual discussions. JFF’s DesignForScale: State Self-Assessment Tool guides the teams through an analysis of the state policy environment.

►► DesignForScale: State Self-Assessment Tool

Step 2: Prioritize and implement policy changes in support of transformational change. State policy can create an environment that provides incentives for colleges to effect transformational change. JFF has worked closely with colleges and their state partners to develop a policy framework as part of the DesignForScale initiative called Policy Meets Pathways: A State Policy Agenda for Transformational Change, which outlines seven high-leverage policy priorities.

►► Policy Meets Pathways: A State Policy Agenda for Transformational Change

Step 3: Build state structures to set the conditions for scaled reform. Organized, sequenced, and deliberate activities designed to bring reforms to scale will not happen on their own. States must tackle scale in a systematic way, and build the structures that will support scale over the longer-term. This includes engaging faculty authentically through consultation and professional development and providing venues for cross-college collaboration. JFF developed the DesignForScale: State Innovation Series to highlight efforts to scale structured pathways reforms across all the community colleges in a state. North Carolina took a unique approach to faculty and staff engagement; Ohio dove into examining state and institutional policies; Texas established a bold cross-sector advisory board; and Florida leveraged statewide legislation. Other states seeking to scale reforms will find these approaches instructive.

►► DesignForScale: State Innovation Series

Step 4: Help colleges set the conditions for sustained improvement. JFF has developed a tool to guide colleges through a deep effort to analyze every institutional practice and policy—including those that are based on long-standing practices, antiquated assumptions or de facto (not de jure) policies—and determine the degree to which they support or undermine student success. The tool provides a structure and process for institutions to examine existing policies and practices, make necessary changes, and ensure their reforms are concrete, long-term, and college-wide. JFF developed the DesignForScale: College Self-Assessment Tool to guide colleges through a systematic review of institutional policies, practices, and business processes. The goal is to set the conditions for scale and sustainability within institutions and embed improvements in both policy and routines. To learn more about using the DesignForScale: College Self-Assessment Tool, please email Gretchen Schmidt, Program Director,

►► DesignForScale: College Self-Assessment Tool

Support and Technical Assistance for States through Jobs for the Future’s Postsecondary State Policy Network

JFF’s state peer-learning network is committed to advancing policy agendas that accelerate community college student success and completion. States can tailor the depth and scope of their involvement to meet their individual needs and budgets. Ways to participate include:

  • DesignForScale state policy meetings. JFF facilitates one-and-a-half-day meetings held twice a year to give state teams access to experts and the latest research, draw attention to the best work in the field, facilitate cross-state networking, and help states develop and implement reform agendas. 
  • DesignForScale Starter Institute. JFF holds a one-day annual meeting to introduce new states to JFF’s DesignForScale approach.
  • State-level and policy implementation support for pathways. JFF delivers ongoing, targeted technical assistance to states creating the policy conditions that enable structured academic and career pathways for students, with a sharp focus on helping low-income students earn regional high-demand credentials. JFF’s services address every aspect of pathways expansion, from setting policy agendas to increasing faculty engagement to managing in-state learning networks to meet state goals. JFF conducts college-level readiness assessments and helps states build public awareness of community colleges as an effective avenue for improving equity through strong, efficient pathways that guide students to completion, to high-demand jobs in emerging fields, and to future learning.
  • State data use. JFF helps bolster state capacity to use data to sustain the student access agenda. JFF also helps local colleges accelerate and scale college innovation by using real-time labor market information, analyzing and sharing data for continuous improvement, and establishing performance goals and success metrics.
  • Institutional policy analysis and alignment support. JFF helps ensure that state policy sets the conditions for effective scale up at colleges. It engages colleges in a thorough institutional policy review and analysis to determine policy and practice changes needed at the state level and to differentiate what is under local—or college—control. JFF also delivers a full-day college-wide meeting to facilitate effective use of the self-assessment tool to develop recommendations for institutional policy changes, and reports the findings to senior college leadership.
  • Long- and short-term embedded technical assistance. JFF provides technical assistance to state-level entities, including  engaging faculty, college leaders, legislators, employers, community partners, and funders in assuming ownership of the student success agenda, making presentations to in-state stakeholders, orienting new staff and/or boards, developing or facilitating meeting agendas, and consulting on federal policy issues. JFF also can assist with implementation of ongoing professional development opportunities to help administrators, faculty, and staff implement student success improvements statewide.

For more information about DesignForScale meetings, tools, and services, contact: Michael Lawrence Collins, Associate Vice President, State Policy, 617.728.4446 x190,