Framing the Opportunity: Eight State Policy Recommendations that Support Postsecondary Credential Completion for Underserved Populations

This report from Jobs for the Future explores challenges facing underserved youth in the postsecondary system and offers eight recommendations for state policymakers to address barriers to entry and successful completion for such populations. The report defines underserved students as those that have been consistently failed by education, workforce, criminal justice and social services systems, focusing specifically on opportunity youth, immigrants and justice-involved individuals. The authors suggest that a student-focused guided pathway system can help such students enter and excel in postsecondary career pathways, leaning on robust supports and faculty guidance along the way. 

Recommendations include: 

  • Make improving postsecondary outcomes for underrepresented and underserved populations a state priority;
  • Examine enrollment, retention and completion data for immigrants, justice-involved individuals, opportunity youth and other underserved populations to identify access and achievement gaps and set improvement targets; 
  • Encourage or require the development of stronger on-ramps into postsecondary education from the institutions, organizations and systems that work with underserved populations;
  • Encourage or require ongoing, intensive supports, including transition counseling, career advising, academic advising and non-academic support designed to address the unique needs of underrepresented populations;
  • Make postsecondary education more affordable for underserved populations by ensuring access to in-state tuition, financial aid and scholarships, public benefits and emergency funds;
  • Create robust career pathways with multiple exit and entry points as well as flexible learning options that help underserved populations balance work obligations and educational goals;
  • Promote and facilitate the use of braided funding to increase the resources available for underserved populations;
  • Build the capacity of colleges and partners organizations to test and scale innovations for improving postsecondary success for underserved populations. 

The report also includes a map highlighting opportunities to braid federal funding streams in support of these strategies. All in all, this resource is a helpful tool for state policymakers aiming to advance policies that help underserved students access and complete postsecondary education and training. 

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April 2017