Beyond Basic Skills: State Strategies to Connect Low-Skilled Students to an Employer-Valued Postsecondary Education
Mar 04, 2011 | Marcie Foster, Julie Strawn, and Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield
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How much does college matter for getting ahead in America? Having a postsecondary education—broadly defined as a credential beyond a high school diploma—continues to be one of the most important factors in getting a good job and advancing in the workforce. By one estimate, 64 percent of jobs in 2018 will require more than a high school diploma, although not necessarily a four-year degree. For each year of postsecondary education, an adult is more likely to be employed, earn family-sustaining wages, lead a healthier life, and have children who are better prepared to succeed in school. The country, too, benefits from a more educated workforce. Studies of the return on government investments in education (at all levels, not just K-12) show that it is a sound use of public funds.
Critical federal programs, such as funding for student aid and job training, can help lower-skilled adults and youth access postsecondary education, but important policy choices that support their success and completion can be made at the state and local levels. State-level innovations can include: instructional strategies that provide a strong foundation in occupational skills required for jobs in the local economy; acceleration strategies that help students progress further and more quickly in education and training programs in a shorter period of time than traditional approaches, and funding formulas, assessment policies, and other administrative policies that support a statewide vision to provide adults and youth with pathways to better jobs through postsecondary education.
Striking commonalities exist across most of these promising innovations: they are based on best-practice findings from programs at the state and local levels; they can be connected with the needs of industries; and most importantly, they bridge the gap separating local silos from state education and training systems. Beyond Basic Skills describes strategies that state policymakers can use to strengthen connections between basic skills education and postsecondary education to help lower-skilled adults and out-of-school youth attain the postsecondary credentials they need to advance in the labor market.