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Policy Brief:

August 2011

Higher Education For Louisiana to become competitive in the global market, then we must increase college and credential completion. Between direct financial support to schools and financial aid to students, state tax payers are the majority investors in public education and deserve more college graduates. In order to increase the level of educational attainment, it is important to cons ider two parallel educational pipelines: one for students of traditional college age (ages 18-24) and one for reentry adults who are returning to postsecondary education or training.

4 key points in the educational pipeline: Preparation, high school diploma or General Education Development Test Entry into higher education Persistence in higher education Completion of higher education in a timely manner

We can take pride in the great progress made in ensuring access to college: More than 65% of our young people start some kind of advanced training or education within two years of receiving their high school diplomas.

Both pipelines must be addressed simultaneously to significantly increase Louisiana’s educational attainment.


Start 9th Grade


Graduate High School

42 lost 20 lost

4-Year School 30

2-Year School


Enter College

13 lost





Return for 2nd Year

17 lost

*Complete College America



150% time (on-time not available)

Student Pipeline: Preparation of 18-24-Year-Olds For most students, preparing effectively for college while in high school is the first challenge. High school students receive mixed signals about the knowledge and skills which are needed to succeed in college-level courses. Students meet one set of standards to graduate from high school and must adapt to a new set of standards when they enroll in college. Students who show up for college often are not ready for college, especially at two-year campuses. Most end up being placed into an extended series of remedial courses that don’t count toward their degrees. With each course typically lasting 16 weeks, it’s not uncommon for students to spend three semesters or more over multiple years just treading academic water, getting no closer to graduation day. Rather than providing an on ramp to courses they need for diplomas, developmental education often is an exit.

5 Ways to Transform Remediation 1. Place more students directly into courses that count toward degrees— and shift resources to support them there.


For students with greater academic needs, implement targeted programs that accelerate learning.

Transform Remediation: In spite of best intentions, remediation most often becomes the place where students fall down and drop out instead of catch up.

60% of students entering two-year colleges and 25% of those entering open-admissions universities are placed in remediation. Only 30% of community college students pass the developmental math sequences in which they enroll. Fewer than 25% of community college students who are placed in remedial education ever receive a degree or certificate.

3. For students significantly behind, other pathways should be available. 4. End the college admissions mystery by aligning requirements for entry-level college courses with requirements for high school diplomas.

5. Administer college-ready anchor assessments in high school.

Student Pipeline: Preparation of Nontraditional College-Age Students As well as improving the preparation of traditional college-age students, Louisiana can also improve the preparation of adults for continuing their education or training. This should include encouraging adults to complete a high school-level education, usually through a GED, and offering a specialized curriculum targeted to those who have not participated in an educational program recently.

In 2008

464,898 Adults in Louisiana without a High School Diploma

GED’S Produced 31 per 1000 18-24 year olds

64 out of 1000 Participated in basic adult education

6 per 1000 25-49 year olds

Louisiana can increase the number of adults earning postsecondary credentials if we make basic skills and English language services more effective for those whose education stopped at high school or earlier. The

5 Ways to Improve 1. Create “bridge” programs that blend the reach and content of adult basic education

2. Provide pathways from adult basic

most innovative state policy work on adult basic skills education blends basic skills and English language services with postsecondary education and training, and includes more proactive advisory services, college success courses, peer support, and other student support strategies.

education and GED to college enrollment

Such innovation is occurring both in the adult basic education system―which provides literacy and numeracy services up to the postsecondary level, GED preparation, and English language services―and in developmental education―which provides pre -college reading, writing, math, and English language services within postsecondary education institutions.

developmental education more relevant to students

3. Set new goals and performance measures for adult basic education

4. Make adult basic education and 5. Offer dual or concurrent enrollment in basic skills and English language and workforce education across education sectors

Student Pipeline: Persistence and Completion of 18-24 Year Olds ½ of community college students and about 70% of four-year college graduates return for a second year. Graduation rates for low-income and minority students at two- and four-year colleges lag behind those for middle- and high-income students. One of the most important characteristics of effective first-year college programs is intensity. Newly enrolled students have a greater chance of completing a degree if they take a greater number of academic credits early in academic careers.

“Earning less than 20 credits in the first calendar year following postsecondary entry….lessens the probability of completing a bachelor’s degree by 1/3”

Clifford Adelman, Ph.D. Senior Associate with the Student financial aid policies can have an impact on intensity and Institute for Higher Education Policy on the likelihood of students returning to college their second year. Providing generous financial aid packages and targeting financial aid to those with financial need can encourage students to take more courses and reduce time spent working outside the classroom.

5 Ways to Improve Financial Aid 1. Increase dollars for need-based aid 2. Increase the availability of grants to lowincome students rather than loans

3. Use aid to strengthen connections between postsecondary education and work

4. Establish policies that provide incentives for students to attend college full-time

5. Adopt flexible funding formulas that recognize different program costs

The development of learning communities has also proven effective in improving persistence rates from freshman to sophomore yeari. Learning communities are typically defined as cohorts of students taking two or more courses together. The courses are often linked thematically, and the community structure allows students deeper interactions with each other and with their instructorsii. Connecting students to each other and to a meaningful course sequence can powerfully shape learning habits and environments.

Student Pipeline: Persistence and Completion of Nontraditional College-Age Students The barriers to educational attainment for low-income adults are high. 2/3 of low income adults who entered college in 2003-2004 reported they were seeking a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. However only 7% earned a bachelor’s degree and only

8% earned an associate’s degree in 6 years.


The main reason of dropping out? Work How to Connect Education with Work

1. Create and support regional, sector-based partnerships among businesses, educational agencies and workforce organizations

2. Map career pathways in sectors important to regional economies

61% of community college students

3. Align assessments and entry and exit criteria between

enroll only part-time and work more than

steps in career pathways programs

20 hours

4. Ensure that employer-focused training programs have

per week

strong connections to Louisiana

5. Improve standards for assessing whether on-the-job learning, certifications, and competencies count toward college credit

Student Pipeline: Articulation and Transfer In order to maximize the public investment in higher education, we must encourage students to transfer from two- to four-year institutions without repeating courses or losing time in the process. Supporting community colleges as a portal for students entering higher education can be a productive state policy because of the low cost of instruction at these institutions. But it is a viable strategy only if students can and do transfer smoothly.

3 Needs of Student Articulation and Transfer

1. Common examinations for basic skills and common cut scores for placement into college-level work and promote what it means to be college ready

2. Statewide agreements that guarantee transfer to four-year institutions for students who complete and associate’s degree

3. Counseling and advising tools that reduce ready.

students taking additional courses in order to be transfer

College Redesign: The Way Forward Higher education needs to address productivity challenges in order to sustain itself in the future. Tuition increases have already priced too many students out of the system, and public funds won’t grow fast enough to make up the difference. Part of the solution lies in restructuring course delivery. But part of the solution must reduce time-to-degree and increase the number of students completing on time. The public’s longstanding image of the typical college student — living on campus, studying full-time, and completing a degree in four years — is no longer accurate. Today’s students are more likely to work while they attend college, take classes part-time, and commute to campus. College students have changed dramatically, but more often than not, degree and certificate programs are still delivered just as they have been for generations. And the results are not encouraging.

If delivery models don’t change and colleges and universities continue to simply offer more of the same, we can expect the same results: too many college dropouts.

4 Ways to Restructure Course Delivery 1. Implement Block Scheduling. Block scheduling is offering courses in regular back-to-back time sequences, which allows students to balance their education with work and family responsibilities.

2. Build and maximize the value of cohorts. A structured course delivery model, like the one described above, creates cohorts within programs. Students who work in cohorts benefit by functioning as a unit, learning from and supporting one another and focusing on the same content.


Build support programs into structured course delivery models. Rather than create separate remediation classes that don’t count toward degrees, institutions should integrate remediation into the structured course delivery blocks.


Require low-performing campuses to restructure delivery. Campuses that have consistently poor completion rates should be required to implement new models of delivery.

8 Ways to Reduce Time and Accelerate Success


Require all students to have graduation plans and declare majors early.

2. 3. 4.

Reduce unnecessary course-taking. Improve transfer policies.

Require colleges to find consensus on course content and develop a common course numbering system.

5. Provide incentives for full-time enrollment and other strategies that enable acceleration.

6. Implement Year Round Schooling 7. Use Online Learning. 8. Expand alternative pathways for students to earn college credits early.

The Completion Shortfall Access without success is an empty promise…and a missed opportunity with economic consequences. A college degree gives numerous benefits to the citizens and business communities in Louisiana. Which include higher earnings, lower unemployment, an increased tax base, and greater civic engagement. However, in order for Louisiana to compete in the global market, we must help more people achieve higher levels of education and use resources and funding wisely in the process.

Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce found that iv: Between 2008 and 2018, new jobs in Louisiana requiring postsecondary education and training will grow by 65,000 while jobs for high school graduates and drop outs will grow by 61,000 Between 2008 and 2018, Louisiana will create 634,000 job vacancies both from new jobs and from openings due to retirement

316,000 of these vacancies will require postsecondary credentials, 229,000 for high school graduates, and 89,000 for high school drop outs th Louisiana ranks 45 in terms of the proportion of 2018 jobs that will require a th Bachelor’s degree and is 6 in jobs for high school drop outs 51% of all jobs in Louisiana (1.1 million jobs) will require some postsecondary training beyond high school in 2018.

31% Today, 31% of Louisiana’s adults aged 25-34 have a college degree.

By 2018, 51% of jobs in Louisiana will require postsecondary education.

This is 12% below the national average of 63%. th

Louisiana ranks 50 in postsecondary education intensity for 2018.

By 2018 this must grow to at least 51% in order to meet Louisiana’s future workforce needs.


If current trends continue, the proportion of workers with high school diplomas and college degrees will decrease, and the average personal income will decline over the next 15 years. However, Louisiana can increase the likelihood that students will complete high school and earn college degrees by focusing on each transition point in the educational pipeline. Along with improving the educational pipeline, Louisiana also should focus on the quality of the degrees which students earn: The most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) found that the number of college graduates proficient in literacy has declined by 40% from a decade ago. More than 50% of students at four-year colleges and more than 75% at two-year colleges lack the skills to perform complex literacy tasks. Math literacy is a particular problem for these same students. Almost 20% of students pursuing four-year degrees had only basic quantitative skills.

Educational Paradox Funding of Institutions vs. Business Efficiencies With the recent budget cuts to higher education and the introduction of both GRAD Acts, Louisiana has positioned itself between a rock and a hard place. Louisiana’s colleges and universities are competing for fewer and fewer resources while our students face higher tuition and less educational options. The implementation of the GRAD Acts introduces financial incentives for producing college degrees and credentials while focusing on collaboration and articulation between universities. The GRAD Acts are a much needed reform for higher education. However, the students, or consumers are in need of better information in order to enter the institutions which better suit their needs. At the level of the educational institution, helping students and their families become better consumers could increase pressure on colleges and universities to make improvements to their services thereby raising college quality. Improving consumer information has also been a critical part to getting better performance in other sectors. Also, providing consumers with information is far less costly than direct government regulation, which underscores the need to consider such strategies to support other higher education decisions.v Read “Grading Higher Education: Giving Consumers the Information They Need”

More to Know This Policy Brief is intended as an overview of some of the important issues in the current debate on higher education in Louisiana. There is clearly a need to examine the future workforce needs while expanding a quality workforce, as well as the use of TOPS and Geaux Grants. Given the lack of financial resources, various political ideologies, numerous institutional and bureaucratic barriers, this policy brief is intended to provide an outline for citizens, policy makers and stakeholders to create meaningful dialog to address the significant challenges and put the needs of Louisiana’s students first.

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About Louisiana Progress


Barbara Leigh Smith, Jean McGregor, Roberta Matthews, and Faith Gabelnick, Communities: Reforming Louisiana Progress is Learning a nonprofit organization thatUndergraduate connects citizens Education across all political parties, races, and religions to develop, advocate ii Deepa Rao, “Learning Communities: Promoting Retention and Persistence in College,” iii for, and innovative, effective, and(Washington, practical solutions to the Bryan Cook and Jacqueline King, Low-Income Adults in Profi le: implement Improving Lives Through Higher Education DC: policy challenges that continue to shackle Louisiana to the past. American Council on Education, February 2004) iv Anthony Carnevale, Nicole Smith & Jeff Strohl; Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (2010). v Bridget Terry Long, “Grading Higher Education,” Harvard Graduate School ofinvites Educati you on (2010). Louisiana Progress to join us. Please visit our website,

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