JFF established The Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success in 2015 to promote policy approaches for increasing college completion that are informed by the perspectives and experiences of postsecondary practitioners implementing evidenced-based reforms, such as guided pathways.
Through the Trust, JFF is deliberately culling institutional knowledge and evidence to develop policy positions for how colleges and communities can help more students attain credentials and succeed in the labor market.
The Trust currently comprises two dozen institutional and systems leaders drawn from JFF's Postsecondary State Network.
Our WorkJFF works with the Policy Leadership Trust to develop state and federal policy recommendations and advocates for adoption of these recommendations through:
- Strategic outreach to state and federal policy makers and influencers
- Dialog with the field of postsecondary practitioners and stakeholders
- Thought leadership in the media
- Consultation and support of members of JFF’s Postsecondary State Network, including Student Success Centers
The Trust has recently released a set of policy design principles and a framework listing key policy priorities to accelerate college reforms and improve student success. Their recommendations are summarized below.
These eight design principles exemplify what practitioners on the Trust
believe makes for good policy. The principles underlie the policy
approaches recommended by the Trust in the state policy framework. For good policy, keep in mind:
No Silver Bullets
No single policy intervention will—on its own—move the needle on student success. Good policy takes a multi-pronged approach.
State context matters when designing policy. What is working in one state may not work in another because of differences in political landscape, priorities, governance, capacity, collaboration, and current and past reforms.
Flow from Practice
Policy should flow from practice, not the inverse. In most instances, it is better to use policy as a tool to accelerate implementation and scaling of proven practices that are already taking hold locally—rather than attempt through policy to ignite reforms that have yet to emerge.
Sense of Ownership
Policy is most likely to be implemented with fidelity when practitioners have informed the policy process and have a sense of ownership. Practitioners should have a seat at table when policy is developed.
Good policy respects the autonomy of institutions over academic and student affairs. Policy ought not dictate curricular decisions.
No Rigid Prescriptions
Good policy does not prescribe rigid implementation of practices and models.
Good policy creates incentives and structures to catalyze change within institutions and among systems.
Use High-Level Directives
High-level directives can be useful at times in steering the direction of reform, deepening commitment, overcoming resistance, and creating leverage. Good policy creates the conditions and overarching expectations for systems and institutions to improve student success.
The Trust has crafted a framework for how state policy can catalyze systems change, improve student success, and build a postsecondary-trained workforce.
The framework emphasizes the role of state policy makers in creating the conditions, incentives, and structures needed to foster clear pathways to credentials and careers for students and ensure their financial stability to achieve their goals.
CONDITIONS FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
First and foremost, the framework calls for a focus on policy issues related to metrics, money, and systems integration, rather than prescribing specific academic and student affair practices.
Establish meaningful metrics for increasing attainment rates of credentials of value, for ensuring equity and economic mobility of low-income and under-served students, and for building a skilled workforce.
Provide adequate resources and appropriate incentives for institutions and systems to transform practices and help more students achieve their education and career goals.
Forge alignment across secondary and postsecondary systems to make seamless and affordable pathways to credentials and high-demand careers for all students. Streamline paths from high school and adult education through associate and baccalaureate degree completion in students’ desired program of study.
Foster collaboration between postsecondary and human services systems to maximize access and coordination of wraparound services, financial supports, and public benefits to bolster the financial stability of students and alleviate their financial hurdles to completion and career success.
Deepen responsiveness to business and industry needs through meaningful engagement of employers in programmatic decisions and in widening access to work-based learning opportunities to ensure students have the skills and experiences for work.
SUPPORTING INQUIRY AND IMPROVEMENT
With these essential incentive structure in place, the Trust recommends that policymakers should build state and institutional capacity to identify key barriers to student success and implement key solutions, related to guided pathways.
Enhance data systems to encourage a culture of inquiry in which institutions and systems apply data to identify barriers to student success and drive their decision-making on implementation of sound practices. Establish/enhance state-level longitudinal data systems to track student progress across K–12, workforce, and higher education systems and institutions.
Invest in institutional capacity to implement evidence-based reforms by defraying upfront costs of implementing guided pathway practices, enhancing professional development of faculty and staff in support of student success efforts, and strengthening institutional capacity for data analysis and use of technology.
Build statewide infrastructure for scale by developing state-level capacity to convene institutions to facilitate peer exchange and deliver expert consultation regarding evidence-based student success practices, as well as inform practitioners about the implications and opportunities of adopted policies.
Remove policy barriers to implementing guided pathway practices by providing institutions with flexibility to experiment with implementing evidence-based practices.
Only after institutions and state systems have sufficiently scaled pathway reforms would the Trust recommend that codifying practices into policy may be appropriate. Doing so would help to sustain and scale momentum. In each of the three phases, the Trust recommends that policymakers actively engage practitioners in the design of policy to ensure that policy is informed and supportive of good practice on the ground.
Evaluate efficacy and viability of scaling reforms before codifying into policy.
Provide formal opportunities for practitioners to inform policy design and rule-making.
Meet the Trust
Scott Ralls, Co-Chair
President, Northern Virginia Community College
"Is policy in your face or at your back? Either way it blows, we need to recognize its impact. Community colleges need to be front and center in state policy conversations about economic opportunity."
Marcia Ballinger, Co-Chair
President, Lorain County Community College
"It helps to have an external stimulus, like a new state policy or even a national initiative, to push you. Without it, you could become complacent on campus. The policy work has helped us bring together important partners to improve student success."
Vice Provost, Miami Dade College
President, Rockland Community College
Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, North Carolina Community College System
Vice President, Amarillo College
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University System of Georgia
"My feeling always has been that if we at the system office pass a policy to tell everybody you have to do this, then we wouldn’t actually achieve any change. Instead, by working with people at colleges to create a powerful wave of consensus around what works, people made very significant changes because they knew it was the right thing to do. We told people that once the right way became clear, then we would enshrine that in policy afterwards, just to make sure that we didn’t go backwards with a new wind."
Senior Vice Chancellor, Community Colleges and The Education Pipeline; State University of New York
President and CEO, Tulsa Community College
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Maricopa Community Colleges
President, Columbus State Community College
President, Ohio Association of Community College
Vice Provost for Academic Partnerships, Arizona State University
Director, Basic Education for Adults, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
Transfer and Articulation, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities
Executive Director, Arkansas Center for Student Success
"State policy can provide supportive infrastructure for the guided pathways work whether it’s through better connecting K–12 to the pathways work, whether it’s through financial aid policies that give students the resources they need to go to college, or whether it’s through child care and food stamp policies that help students go to college—performance funding that gets college to think about something other than how many folks they are going to get in their seats in the fall semester."
Vice Chancellor for Academic Services & Research, Virginia Community College System
"Good policy is strategic, evidence based, and integrated."
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Hawai'i Community Colleges
"We’re educating people at a cost that they can’t afford, and they take out loans for jobs that aren’t there in many cases. So, you get your bachelor’s degree and end up coming back to the community college for an industry-relevant certificate. We need to keep this in mind as we move forward. It’s not just pathways. It’s not just success. Success at what? Pathways to where? I think is the real crucial policy question that we have to wrestle with."
President and CEO, Austin Community College District
President, Davidson County Community College
President and CEO, Achieving the Dream
President, Mohawk Valley Community College
President, St. Petersburg College
Executive Director, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges