Postsecondary State Policy Network Convening

In July, over 120 state education agency representatives, college system representatives, college leaders, funders and others attended a biannual Postsecondary State Policy Network (PSPN) convening in Ft. Lauderdale.  The PSPN network, led by Jobs for the Future (JFF) in conjunction with the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network, is comprised of 13 states committed to creating and implementing policies that lead to postsecondary student success.  Through funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Achieving the Dream supports five states’ participation in the network – Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Virginia. 

This summer’s meeting focused on several cross-cutting themes about how states can best support student success efforts in the area of:  implementing structured student pathways, increasing entry into and completion of middle-skill Science Technology Math and Engineering (STEM) pathways, and scaling effective innovations.   Among the many compelling sessions offered, participants benefitted from

  • Hearing Cheryl Hyman, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago speak of her efforts to drive a focused student success agenda that is resulting in improved outcomes and increased capacity of the colleges to support the necessary interventions to achieve the outcomes.
  • Learning about the structures, strategies, and resources states have used to support scaling developmental education reform.
  • Receiving a briefing on what the field is learning from large-scale student success evaluations conducted by MDRC and the Community College Research Center. 

Additionally, Achieving the Dream’s five policy states, along with state and community college representatives from the STEM Regional Collaboratives*, met to continue their work to identify opportunities on which the states can work together to improve math preparation in the STEM fields.  This cross-state working group, supported by Achieving the Dream’s grant from the Helmsley Trust, is charged with furthering a middle-skill STEM policy agenda, and as such, it will, among other activities, serve as a sounding board for a middle-skill STEM state policy framework that will be created as part of the grant. 

Through our work with Achieving the Dream colleges, we have seen how state policy can support and impede institutions’ efforts to improve student outcomes.  Thus, state policy is an essential lever for effecting high impact, sustainable changes in the state and institutional policy landscape that move the needle on student outcomes.  The PSPN provides a space for state actors and colleges to better understand each other’s respective roles in the student success agenda and to learn from (and borrow generously) other states’ policies and strategies that have resulted in improved student outcomes. 

To view many of the resources shared at the summer PSPN meeting click here.


*Supported by funding through the Helmsley Trust, the STEM Regional Collaboratives are partnerships between three colleges and their local employers to build highly structured middle-skill STEM pathways.  Through this effort, Achieving the Dream seeks to help colleges and states better align their college completion and middle-skill STEM agenda in both practice and policy.  Cuyahoga Community College (OH), Norwalk Community College (CT), and Miami-Dade College are participating in this effort.  Achieving the Dream and JFF provide technical assistance to the collaboratives.

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