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Report/Research

Making College Work for Students and the Economy

JFF research finds that states have made progress in adopting several essential policy elements, but critical gaps remain that are undercutting talent development aims and contributing to persistent disparities in education and employment outcomes.

January 30, 2020

At a Glance

JFF research finds that states have made progress in adopting several essential policy elements, but critical gaps remain that are undercutting talent development aims and contributing to persistent disparities in education and employment outcomes.

Contributors
Ashley Bliss Lima
Cynthia Liston, Liston Consulting, LLC

Focus on Talent Development Needs of Regional and State Economies

To meet employer needs and put learners on a path to economic success, states need to provide the right information and incentives to drive talent development priorities. Policy recommendations 1 through 6 represent the building blocks for strong talent development systems.

Click on icons below to find a series of research findings focused on Talent Development.

Set a statewide goal for postsecondary attainment.

Develop and maintain a longitudinal data system.

Make labor market outcomes available.

Expect colleges to use labor market information.

Support regional alignment toward in-demand careers.

Expand high-quality work-based learning opportunities for students.

Create Efficient Pathways to Postsecondary Credentials

To complement talent development aims, states need to set policies that create more efficient and seamless pathways for all learners to enter, persist in, and complete postsecondary programs of study. Policy recommendations 7 through 11 represent proven approaches for accelerating attainment of postsecondary credentials that have value in the labor market.

Click on icons below to find a series of research findings focused on Efficient Pathways.

Make dual enrollment a seamless pathway.

Accelerate entry into college-level courses.

Reduce the time it takes to complete a two-year degree.

Ensure that transfer students have a fair shot at a four-year degree.

Fund what works and what matters.

Help all students fulfill their potential

It is not enough to set talent development priorities and to make pathways clearer and more efficient if learners still encounter insurmountable barriers to credential attainment. This holds especially true if those learners are low-income and first-generation college students. Policy recommendations 12 through 15 provide tangible ways that state policy can help all learners navigate their education and career choices, pay for college, and address life’s challenges as they endeavor to earn a credential. Without these policies, higher education will continue to reinforce, as opposed to reduce, equity gaps.

Click on icons below to find a series of research findings focused on Student Potential.

Enhance college and career advising.

Focus on the true cost of college and the financial needs of students.

Reimagine state financial aid to address the challenges faced by today’s students and the realities of the changing economy.

Mitigate the economic insecurities of students so they can focus on their studies.


Through our policy research, JFF found many instances where state policymakers are stepping up to create supportive policy conditions that we see as essential for catalyzing collective action and impact in addressing talent development, credential attainment, and economic advancement aims. We encourage you to download the entire report to get a full view of our research and recommendations.

It is important to remember that community colleges cannot solve this workforce imperative alone—all stakeholders must get involved to ensure that the future is learner-ready and worker-ready.

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