Tulsa joins national network to increase post-high school degree attainment

Tulsa is one of 20 cities joining Lumina Foundation’s nationwide Community Partnership for Attainment, which seeks to create and strengthen collaborative partnerships to increase postsecondary degree and certification attainment, the organization announced Thursday.

As part of the 75-city partnership, Tulsa will receive technical assistance, targeted funding, planning tools and data, networking and professional development opportunities. Local efforts will be coordinated with the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s education and workforce division and numerous local partners.

“There is no more significant factor in ensuring the personal well-being of an individual or the greater well-being of a region’s economy than educational attainment,” said Brian Paschal, senior vice president of education and workforce for the Chamber. “Our involvement in Lumina Foundation’s city-peer collaboration and networking is a major milestone in our effort to mobilize our region toward better educational outcomes. We are immensely grateful for this selection.”

Only 34.8 percent of adults in the Tulsa Metropolitan Area have a postsecondary degree, but 308,000 of 541,000 Oklahoma’s projected job vacancies through 2018 are expected to require postsecondary education.

Lumina Foundation’s program is designed to help communities and regions dramatically increase the number of local residents with postsecondary credentials. Lumina’s focus on community-based attainment began because of the Foundation’s recognition that community-based networks are well-suited to play a role in institutional planning and can provide the implementation and coordination that is necessary to create impact at state and federal levels in order to improve the nation’s higher education system so that it better serves students.

In Tulsa, the work will focus largely on bringing back to school adults who have completed only some college. In the Tulsa Metropolitan Area, there are 148,501 such individuals.

The work will also advance general collaboration to boost degree attainment alongside regional partners such as ImpactTulsa and Tulsa Community College, with Tulsa Achieves. Recent success in such collaboration includes the Finish For Greater Tulsa program, which contributed to a recent increase in the number of Tulsa-area residents who receive associates and bachelor’s degrees from local institutions — 15.9 percent growth between 2010 and 2013. That was the 4th-largest increase among the 57 metropolitan areas that participated in the three-year Talent Dividend contest.

The work is also linked with the Workforce Analysis Project, an unprecedented initiative launched last year with help from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning to analyze the Tulsa area’s workforce strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to improve job training opportunities and keep the area’s economy competitive.

“Two-thirds of Americans live in or near cities. Our nation cannot meet its growing demand for citizens who have earned a postsecondary credential without meaningful community-based efforts that are tightly focused on increasing educational attainment,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO.  “We are very pleased with the way this work has unfolded. With 75 communities across the nation working to align the work of business, civic and education efforts in their local communities, greater coordination will occur, resulting in tangible benefits for students of all ages.  These students in turn will become graduates who form the backbone of the future economic, social and cultural success of those communities.”

These communities work closely with Lumina and national thought leaders to develop a customized action plan focused on reaching attainment goals to increase the percentage of high-quality credentials held by community residents. The collaborative effort connects participating cities with significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding, and the ability to customize attainment plans that will best suit each community’s needs and the well-being of its residents. Local leaders heading up this work represent a range of sectors from higher education, to K-12, employers, human services, religious and a variety of other community-based organizations.

“Lumina Foundation’s leadership nationally to help coordinate and organize cross-sector partners to improve higher education attainment rates is an invaluable example in education philanthropy,” said Jeff Edmondson, Managing Director of StriveTogether. “They are encouraging local leaders and stakeholders to be thoughtful about how they align resources to scale local practices that get results and innovate in targeted ways as opposed to reinventing the wheel.  As a result, we are learning from these cities and vice versa. We feel confident that this will lead to more sustainable solutions over the long-term and improve the quality of life for entire communities.”

The overall effort connects to Goal 2025, Lumina’s national goal to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Progress toward the goal will be measured by credentials earned after high school, including certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees held by local residents. The cities selected will work with Lumina through 2016 to expand and deepen the work they have demonstrated in advancing postsecondary attainment agendas.

The third and final cohort of communities include: Atlanta, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Boise, Idaho; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Durham, N.C.; Fresno, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; Monterey Bay, Calif.; Racine, Wis.; Rockford, Ill.; Shasta County, Calif.; Southern Indiana; Springfield, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Tampa, Fla.; Tulsa, Okla.; Twin Cities, Minn.; Tyler, Texas. To view a complete list of cities participating in this work, national thought leaders assisting these cities, and to learn more about this work please click here.

About Lumina Foundation

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina’s outcomes-based approach focuses on helping to design and build an accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action to achieve Goal 2025. For more information, log on to: www.luminafoundation.org

Attention college students: You may have earned a degree without knowing it

If you’re cash-strapped, here’s a well-trodden path toward a bachelor’s degree: Start at community college, which is cheaper and more flexible; get a bunch of credits there; then transfer to a four-year college to finish.

It’s estimated that about a quarter of community college students make this leap within five years. Most — about 64 percent — transfer before getting an associate’s degree first.

Read more from the Washington Post here.

‘Tulsa’s radical idea’: Tulsa Achieves scholarship program featured on NPR

Tulsa Community College’s groundbreaking Tulsa Achieves scholarship  program is gaining national attention yet again. The program, which offers free tuition to any Tulsa County student who graduates high school with a 2.0 GPA, was featured in an NPR story this week entitled “College For Free: Tulsa’s Radical Idea.”

Since its conception in 2007, the program has helped more than 10,000 Tulsa County students enter college.

Read the NPR story here.

Chamber offers numerous education, workforce resources

By Brian Paschal, SVP, Education & Workforce division

Growing, attracting and retaining skilled workers in northeastern Oklahoma is a key goal of the Tulsa Regional Chamber — so much so that the Chamber dedicates an entire division to the endeavor.

The Education & Workforce division hosts numerous resources, programs, tools and events dedicated to connecting employers and residents with workforce development, education attainment and strategic planning opportunities across the region and state.
We act as a backbone organization to convene, coordinate and collaborate on talent pipeline initiatives and programs, from Pre-K readiness to post-secondary training and college attainment.

Through education initiatives such as Partners In Education and College Access, Career Readiness, we seek to link businesses with schools in an effort to improve childhood education. With Tulsa’s Young Professionals, one of the nation’s largest young professional organizations, we focus on developing the next generation of leaders and attracting and retaining young talent. Through a workforce collaborative and initiatives such as Recruiter Roundtable, HR Forums, Road Trip for Teachers and Mosaic, we seek to assist employers in developing, attracting and retaining skilled, diverse employees.

Ultimately, we’re here to cultivate and develop the region’s talent pipeline, ensuring that we have a competitive, diverse workforce that meets the needs of the business community and gives us a solid foundation for continuing to attract and retain jobs and companies.

The division’s leaders also serve as board members and advisors to education, advocacy, career pathway and talent development initiatives throughout the region and state, providing expertise, resources and services where it matters the most.

We have direct involvement in a long list of organizations and initiatives:

• Bond Development Committee
• Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
• CareerAdvance
• Community Service Council
• Foundation for Tulsa Public Schools
• Graduation & Dropout Commission
• Higher Ed Forum of Northeast Oklahoma
• High School Completion Coalition
• High School Completion Coalition
• Impact!Tulsa (Strive model)
• Kendall Whittier Main Street
• Leadership Tulsa
• Mayor’s Film & Music Advisory Council
• Metropolitan Human Services Commission
• NAC TAACCCT Grant, Manufacturing & Related Industry
• NEOklahoma Dream It Do It
• P20 Human Capital Council
• Rotary
• Sustainable Tulsa
• Teach for America – Oklahoma
• The Mine
• Transportation Connections WorkAdvance
• Tulsa Area Human Resources Association
• Tulsa Community College Advisory Council(s)
• Tulsa Public School committees and councils
• Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance
• Tulsa Regional Vision Task Force
• Tulsa Tech Advisory Council(s)
• Union Schools Education Foundation
• Workforce Grant Collaborative
• Workforce Tulsa
• Youth Council

The bottom line: We’re involved, and we’re a resource for getting connected to a wide array of education attainment and workforce initiatives. So use us.

Visit our website to learn more.

The Power of the Prize

By Noël Harmon, director, National Talent Dividend

I’ve been traveling for a few days and came into the office early to catch up on work; however, before I got to the meat of my day, I received an e-mail from one of my supervisors asking me to send him “the best narrative you’ve written on why the prize is important in accelerating the work of cities.” He was referring to the $1 million Talent Dividend Prize competition, which I manage. The prize is a joint initiative between CEOs for Cities and Living Cities, funded by the Kresge Foundation, and awarded to the U.S. city that exhibits the greatest increase in the number of degrees granted per one thousand people in the city from 2009/2010 to 2012/2013.

Intrigued by this request, I thought, “I’m pretty sure I’ve never written about the prize in quite this way.”

Read more from the Huffington Post

Meeting the Money Challenges of Adult College Students

by Mary Johnson, Financial literacy expert, Higher One

Are you a single parent, stay-at-home mom, or working adult who wants to return to school in hopes of securing a brighter financial future?  The good news is that you’re not alone.  In fact, 38 percent of all undergraduate college students in America are over the age of 25 (about 6.7 million), and this share is expected to grow to 45 percent by 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Studies have shown that these adult learners face a number of significant challenges as they strive to balance family, work and the academic rigors of college. Affordability, managing finances, and lack of time to keep up with coursework are among the most common reasons cited for not completing degree requirements. While this may sound a bit discouraging, a little bit of pre-planning can really make a difference and help you successfully achieve your goals.  Here are some suggestions for beginning your journey, avoiding unnecessary costs, and staying the course to a better life:

Be realistic about the commitment

Just like getting married or moving to a new city, going back to school is a major life decision.  It will require lots of time and resolve to see it through.  Before making the leap, examine how you currently spend your time and see what changes might be in order to accommodate your expected coursework.  Be sure to include allowances for studying and travel time if you plan to commute to school.  Try this interactive scheduler to visualize how your day is spent; it’s amazing how quickly the time goes. You’ll also want to determine if you have enough flexibility to attend full-time (12 or more credit hours), or can only handle a part-time schedule at this point. Keep in mind that the more credits you carry, the more likely you are to stay in school and complete your degree.

Determine your career interests

Going to college is a significant financial investment so you’ll want to be sure that the anticipated rewards match job opportunities. Explore your interests and research the expected employment openings for those fields by visiting sites like mynextmove.org and bls.gov which provide fast and easy access to the latest information.

Explore college programs, services and graduation rates

Next, find a college or university that offers the program of study you are interested in.  Keep in mind that the closest school to you may not be the best fit.  Community colleges, for example, offer a wide array of certificate and associates degree programs, many of which are geared to students with busy lives.  They also may provide child care and other time/cost-saving support such as online tutoring and library services.  Some colleges also offer accelerated, weekend degree or online programs that may be better suited to your work schedule.  Not sure where to begin? Check out college navigator.  Before applying, be sure to ask about graduate rates and what happens to students after they complete their program.  Does the school have a good track record of helping students complete their degree? Are their graduates getting jobs in their field of study?

Apply for financial aid

Many adult learners mistakenly assume that they are not eligible for financial aid and will have to foot the bill on their own.  Not true.  Almost 40 percent of Pell grant recipients, the federal grant program for the neediest students, are over the age of 25.  To see if you qualify, start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  This is your gateway to all federal grant and student loans.  Most state and institutional need-based programs also require completion of the FAFSA, so be sure to check with the grants office of your state and the institutions you are applying to for more details.  If you have served in the military, you may be eligible for veteran’s benefits to help with costs.  Also be sure to check with your employer to see if they offer grants or tuition reimbursement programs for successfully completed courses.  Use this scholarship search engine to help find national foundations that may have special programs for adult learners. Remember, no one can guarantee a scholarship so never pay for a scholarship search.

In addition, some states such as Kentucky have designed special programs for adults receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF.  These programs often partner with community and technical colleges to combine education grants and support services in one place.  You also may want to explore getting credit for prior learning as a means to reduce the number of courses you may have to take.  After all, one of the great benefits older students can bring to the classroom is lots of real work and life experience.  Another innovative cost-saving program is the online Western Governors University which only requires students to take and pass those courses in which they don’t exhibit competency.

Students who qualify for need-based grants and/or scholarships usually rely on some student loans to help cover all their educational costs. What’s important is to limit the amount of loans you may take out to only what you really need, keep track of how much you are borrowing, and estimate what your monthly loan payments are likely to be when you finish.  Keep in mind that you will have to pay back these loans even if you don’t finish your degree.

Keep on top of your money

While in school, it is important to make a budget of your income and expenses, and monitor it on a monthly basis. Simplify your finances by using an online checking account that allows you to check balances and see how you are spending your money on the fly. Using automated bill paying features are also a great time saver, and help you keep payments on time — so important for your credit score.

Going back to college is an exciting endeavor and well-worth the effort, so don’t get discouraged if you hit a few bumps along the way.  Remember that you are not alone and there is plenty of support to help you along the way if you simply ask.  Also, be sure to touch base often with your college counselor, favorite professor, friend and/or family member for added encouragement and guidance. After all, the great film producer Walt Disney once said, “If you dream it, you can do it.”

Follow Mary Johnson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@MoneyTalkMary

When does it pay to go back to school in midlife?

By Nancy Collamer

Getting a degree or certificate won’t guarantee a job. Here’s what you need to know to increase your chances of finding new work.

I suspect many Americans in their 50s and 60s are considering going back to school to improve their career prospects.

After all, getting additional education in midlife – whether it’s a bachelors degree, a masters or a certificate – can be an excellent way to move into a new career, earn a promotion or make more money.

But college isn’t cheap and there’s no guarantee that further schooling will lead to a new job or fatten your paycheck.

So when does it pay to go back to school after age 50 or so?

A Midlife Degree Is No Job Guarantee

I got to thinking about this issue after my editor forwarded me an email from a distraught 59-year-old Next Avenue reader. She couldn’t find a job after picking up a bachelor’s degree in social work because employers said she lacked the necessary experience.

That’s an all too common chicken-and-egg predicament faced by many new, older graduates: You need relevant experience to get a new job, but you need a job to gain relevant experience.

If going back to school, either for a degree or a certificate, is something you’re thinking about, here are three considerations for choosing a program wisely, plus two tips to help you find a job after completing your studies:

How to Select a Back-to-School Program

Research employment rates for new graduates. There was a time when pretty much any college degree was a ticket to a new job. But those days are long gone.

According to “Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings 2013,” a study just released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the choice of a college major determines your likelihood of unemployment.

The study found that the unemployment rate was roughly 5 percent for recent nursing and education majors, but more than 10 percent for grads with degrees in architecture and information systems, concentrated in clerical functions.

So you’ll want to research official employment statistics by industry before enrolling anywhere. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good source for this type of information.

Keep in mind that some fields, like entertainment and high tech, are known for favoring younger workers. Others, like accounting and health care, tend to be more welcoming to people over 40. But as the Next Avenue reader’s struggle illustrates, even in fields like social work, where age is often valued, getting hired without job-related experience can still be difficult.

If you’d like to return to college to switch fields, it’s important to talk with industry insiders who can evaluate your odds of success. Ask about in-demand specialties or certifications that would maximize your educational investment.

Investigate alternatives to four-year and two-year degrees. If the high cost of a degree and the possibility of taking on debt to pay the tuition has you worried (especially now that the student loan rate just shot up to 6 percent), consider less costly options, like a certificate program.

Short-term specialized certificate and vocational training programs can often be quick and fairly inexpensive ways to snag good-paying jobs.

The websites of community colleges, technical schools and industry associations are excellent places to search for quality certificate programs in high-demand fields.

Some community colleges also participate in the Plus 50 initiative, a national program comprising courses and life transition counseling services for people over 50. To find one near you, check out the Plus 50 website.

Find educational programs that offer real-world work experience. The more jobs, internships or volunteer positions you’ve racked up in your new, intended field before graduation, the easier it will be get hired when school is over. So look for a college degree or certificate that offers these types of opportunities as part of its curriculum.

Who knows? One of the places you work while in school could wind up

2 Tips for Finding a Job After Graduation

Get involved in your new field while you’re in school. As I’ve written before, networking is the best way to find a job these days. So don’t wait until you finish your coursework to become actively engaged in your new industry.

Soon after you enroll, join its trade association, start going to conferences and participate in related social networking groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Those types of efforts did the trick for Joan Baird, 55, of Fort Wayne, Ind., who graduated from Northwestern University with an M.S. in medical informatics in 2010. She volunteered for industry groups, rubbed elbows at conferences and eventually landed a job as a business systems analyst for a hospital.

Tap into your new network of professors and classmates plus the school’s alumni office. They can offer great connections. Many professors continue to work in their field and know people in it who may be able to help you get a foot in the door.

Your classmates can be an excellent source of job leads and referrals, too. So be sure to stay in touch with them regularly, online and in person, once you finish your degree or certificate program.

Your college may also have an alumni career services office that can assist in your job search when graduation nears. These departments sometimes offer webinars, career fairs and one-on-one counseling sessions.

Finally, as your college classes are winding down, don’t forget to revamp your resumé, LinkedIn profile and other job-search materials to highlight your recent education and internship experiences.

An excellent book to help you do so is Expert Resumés for Career Changers by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.

Why These Steps Are Worthwhile

I know this all sounds like a heck of a lot of work. It is.

But if you’re willing to invest the energy, the payoff for going back to school can be well worth the effort.

As Joan Baird, who leveraged her new degree into a job, told me: “It wasn’t easy. But I worked darn hard and it finally paid off.”

Click here for the original article.

The Forgotten College Student

by Quentin Wilson, President and CEO, ALL Management Corporation

Who do you typically think about when you visualize someone going to college? Is he or she one of the more than three million high school students graduating each year? Or is he or she one of the 43 million Americans over the age of 25 who have enrolled in an education program beyond high school, but have not finished their degree or certificate?

Eager students straight out of high school once filled college classrooms, while many of today’s college students work full-time jobs, have a family, and are enrolled in school part time. This new breed of college student is reshaping the face of higher education in America.

Despite the size and opportunity presented by this population, we’ve paid a lot less attention and developed far fewer initiatives to support these 43 million students than we have for the more traditional college student. In fact, some proposals designed to improve success in college for traditional-age students could further restrict opportunities for returning adult students to succeed in higher education. Limited financial aid for returning adult students and remote course access with limited human contact are some of the new initiatives that will hinder former students from returning to college and succeeding in higher education.

So who are these 43 million forgotten students, and how do we help them? They are a little older than traditional college students and have either returned or thought about returning for more education after high school. Most likely, they’re individuals who hope to learn something new, earn a degree or certificate, and get a new or better job in the process.

Here are a few thoughts the education industry should consider when promoting or undertaking efforts to help these forgotten students:
A.Make sure that any new financial aid resources and technology-based offerings under discussion won’t limit the access of adult students returning to complete their education.
?Adapt new and improved information resources and academic offerings tailored to the needs of returning students. For example, a blended learning curriculum that provides guidance and tangible skill building would foster the most beneficial learning environment. Blended learning entails more time with individual teachers and enables students to personalize their learning in and outside of school.

?Provide these adult students with more robust support systems and communities that help them manage the pressures and processes of returning to college.

I’m not arguing to take services away from traditional-age students in an effort to serve adult returning students. Both need help. But there are two major reasons the adult population is so important. First, they represent the key to achieving vital national goals for higher education as well as many of society’s goals, including a growing economy, personal financial success, community health, civic engagement, critical thinking, and on and on. Second, these students will help not only themselves, but will also become positive role models for younger family members and friends, rather than reinforcing the fears of those who already hear the drumbeat of naysayers about the academic and financial challenges of completing college.

What can we do to help these 43 million people? More than anything else, they want the guidance and support to help make their return trip to college a success. Encouragement has come from a wide array of public figures including President Obama, philanthropies and foundations such as the Lumina Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation, and community-based organizations and volunteers nationwide.

I invite you to help get this conversation started, especially if you, a family member, or a friend is one of the millions who have dropped out. Your families need you. Your communities need you. And your country needs you.


Click here for original blog post.

Who’s going back to school?

We know that recent high school graduates are heading to college soon. But that’s not all. Plenty of adults are making their way to university or back to university; check out this awesome graphic from Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

Back to School: Adults and Higher Education
Image compliments of Top 10 Online Colleges

Cherokee Nation, RSU Partnership to Cover Virtually All College Costs for Qualified Students

NEWS July 24, 2013

A new partnership between Rogers State University and the Cherokee Nation will provide significant scholarships that will cover essentially all college costs for qualified applicants.

When coupled with free federal student aid, the Cherokee Promise Scholarship Program will cover nearly 100 percent of tuition, fees, room and board for up to 24 tribal citizens each year. As a result, participating students will be able to attend college and earn their degree virtually debt free, officials said.

“Rogers State has a long history of cooperation and collaboration with the Cherokee Nation,” said RSU President Dr. Larry Rice. “We are honored to be able to extend that partnership by providing education opportunities to qualifying Cherokee students.”

The Cherokee Promise program aims to create a cohesive, living-learning community among the scholarship recipients by providing housing for them together in RSU’s student apartments, along with special programing provided by RSU Residential Life staff and an academic advisor who is familiar with their needs. The Cherokee Nation College Resource Center will also provide mentorship for the students.

“We are committed to expanding opportunities for Cherokee people and the partnership with Rogers State University will allow more citizens to get a quality education,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “For both traditional students and people returning to school, the Cherokee Promise Scholarship will provide a unique avenue for pursuing a college degree.”

In addition to meeting academic benchmarks, scholarship recipients will be expected to complete a number of courses offered at RSU that focus on Cherokee history and culture, including Cherokee language classes.

To apply for the scholarship one must be a Cherokee Nation citizen, live within the 14-county jurisdictional area, meet income guidelines, be accepted to RSU and be admitted to a bachelor’s degree program.

Promise Scholarships will be awarded on a competitive basis through the Cherokee Nation College Resource Center.

To fill out an application visit, https://scholarships.cherokee.org/ For more information, call the CRC at 918-453-5000, ext. 5465.

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