With the majority of “good jobs” that pay a family-sustaining wage requiring at least some college education — such as a technical certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree or another credential of value — ensuring the existence of high-quality postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and pathways is more important than ever before in preparing learners for high-skill, high-wage and high-demand careers.
Although postsecondary programs are typically considered to be the purview of individual institutions, supported by academic freedom and local control, states have an important role to play in ensuring that each learner has access to only high-quality and relevant programs, notably by leveraging program approval and program evaluation policies and processes. Today, Advance CTE released Driving Quality in Postsecondary CTE: Approval and Evaluation Policies, a report that explores how states are leveraging this role to ensure quality.
Without question, states and postsecondary systems and institutions face unique challenges and opportunities in the quest to ensure program quality and relevance. These challenges include a variety of governance and delivery models, state and federal requirements, and multiple layers of program approval through regional and occupation-specific accreditors. At the same time, states, systems and institutions have meaningful opportunities to support and fund those programs that are best serving learners and their communities’ workforce needs.
Advance CTE’s report also explores a few specific state examples:
- In Wisconsin, the Technical College System (WTCS) uses its statutory authority to review and approve all postsecondary programs in two phases: concept, where the system office and then the State Board review program foundations, including labor market justification, and program, where the system office and State Board review program curriculum. WTCS also suspends as many associate degree programs as it approves, so that programs that no longer have labor market relevance and/or quality outcomes are phased out and newer programs with higher quality and more relevance are adequately supported.
- The California Community Colleges system is the largest system of higher education in the nation, with 114 colleges serving 2.1 million students. In 2004 the Chancellor’s Office developed what is now called the California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee (CCCCC) to coordinate efforts between local and statewide curriculum processes and work on program and course approval and evaluation. Through the CCCCC, the state has been working to delegate some of the responsibility of program approval and evaluation to individual institutions, but with policy guidance from a thorough and robust handbook. In this way, the system is working to reduce the burden on colleges while still maintaining quality of programs.
- The Florida College System (FCS) and State Board of Education (SBOE) work together to ease the burden of program approval processes by designing and validating curriculum frameworks at the state level. These frameworks involve input from numerous industry partners and content experts and list key standards and benchmarks that programs must meet. Once a curriculum framework has been approved by the SBOE, other FCS institutions may apply the framework to new programs and are not required to undergo an approval process. Most FCS institutions start programs by using an existing framework, allowing them to start their program more quickly and avoid a lengthy approval process.
Check out Advance CTE’s report to learn more about ensuring quality in postsecondary CTE programs.
Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager