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Highlights from Higher Ed: Adult Learners, Workplace Success, Social Justice and Transfers

Unique initiatives demonstrate demand among adult learners

After the Coronavirus outbreak last year, the state of Michigan introduced a free college program for frontline workers called Futures for Frontliners, anticipating approximately 15,000 applicants. Instead, 120,000 people applied. “It was kind of a proof point, if you will, that demand is high in our state for this opportunity,” said Kerry Ebersole, director of Michigan’s Sixty by 30 initiative. Yet free college programs for adult students remain rare. “Fourteen out of 23 statewide free college programs exclude adult and returning students, while many of those that don’t leave them out have stringent participation requirements that ‘effectively do the same.'” Only two programs in that group of 23 were designed specifically for older students.

Source: Higher Ed Dive

Employers on how college contributes to workforce success

A wide-ranging survey of executives and hiring managers that was conducted in partnership with Hanover Research indicates that most employers still see value in a “liberal education.” Employers noted that the “breadth and depth of learning is needed for long-term career success.” They also believe that applicants who completed active and applied learning have a “clear advantage” in the job market. However, employers indicated that they still see room for improvement in career preparation. “Finally, for the first time, the study found evidence of an emerging generation gap among employers that may signal increasing confidence in higher education and even greater support for liberal education over the coming years.”

Source: Association of American Colleges and Universities

The intersection of COVID-19 and social justice in Higher Ed

A panel session featuring several college leaders at the recent SXSWedu Conference discussed six ways the pandemic and concurrent equity challenges have impacted higher-ed institutions and their students. Panelists noted, for example, that first-time college students are falling behind. “What’s more, students who fail to enroll in college the summer or fall after high school graduation are far less likely to ever achieve a higher education credential. ‘That’s a real concern that we have lost the class of 2020,'” said William Serrata, president of El Paso Community College. “And quite frankly, given the length of the pandemic, we’re worried that we may miss the class of ‘21.” Other concerns include student health, institutions’ potential responses to political and social unrest, the unlikelihood of returning to 100% face-to-face instruction, students’ reluctance to get vaccinated and mental health issues among students and staff.

Source: Campus Technology

Transfers declined this spring at quadruple the rate of one year ago

A new study released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), called COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility and Progress First Look Spring 2021 Report, “shows a nearly four times decline in transfers [this spring] from the same period in 2021.” According to the NSCRC’s executive director, “As the pandemic continues to shift the postsecondary landscape, colleges and universities would need to address the needs of the students who are most impacted.” That includes white and Black students (-14% and -11% respectively) and men ages 18-24; Latinx student transfers were the least affected. Although transfer enrollment numbers remained level at public four-year colleges and universities (after experiencing a 4% drop in 2020), they declined more than 15% at Community Colleges.

Source: University Business