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Strada Education Network Names 15 Innovation Grant Winners in $10 Million Beyond Completion Challenge

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Strada Education Network Names 15 Innovation Grant Winners in $10 Million Beyond Completion Challenge

Grant competition in partnership with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity seeks to help students connect learning with employment

INDIANAPOLIS — Strada Education Network announced today the winners in the initial phase of a $10 million grant challenge aimed at helping higher education institutions identify and expand new solutions that will improve career and life opportunities for more students of color, first-generation students, those who struggle to afford education, and adult students and workers.

Strada is partnering with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity for the Beyond Completion Challenge to reimagine higher education to better serve students’ needs. Strada launched the grant challenge with the understanding that students need an educational experience that connects learning with employment so that all students can secure a good job, do meaningful work, and lead a fulfilling life. 

Each participating institution will develop an initiative on their campus or in collaboration with other organizations, including industry partners, to foster a more effective higher education experience.

The 15 institutions selected to receive innovation grants of up to $250,000 are:

  1. Arizona State University
  2. City University of New York
  3. Georgia State University
  4. Georgia Institute of Technology
  5. New York University
  6. North Carolina A&T State University
  7. Northern Virginia Community College
  8. Southern New Hampshire University
  9. University of Arizona
  10. University of Minnesota Rochester
  11. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  12. University of Oregon
  13. University of Pittsburgh
  14. University of Texas System
  15. Virginia Tech

The grants announced today will support new projects and initiatives that focus on equitable outcomes through and beyond college completion. Strada will provide more than $6 million in additional support later this year to expand upon these grants and will engage in a year-long community of practice with grant recipients and other members of the Taskforce working to improve outcomes beyond completion.

“As we recover from a worldwide pandemic, we understand that our economy and our education system are changing dramatically,” said Strada’s Ruth Watkins. “The good news is that institutions of higher learning are rising to the challenge, and are shifting their focus beyond completion of credentials and degrees. The Beyond Completion Challenge was designed not just to come up with new ideas for how to achieve that goal, but to put resources behind them so that more students can benefit. We were delighted with the quality of the proposals and are thrilled to support this terrific work.”

Today’s Phase One grants were awarded to the 15 institutions to support curricular, career guidance and support, work-based learning, capacity building, and technology innovations. Funded initiatives fall into four categories:

  • Infusing career relevance into the curriculum.
  • Developing strategies to expand career support.
  • Strengthening connections between education and career.
  • Building institutional capacity to improve career outcomes.

Learn more about the innovation grant recipients and their projects here.

James Milliken, chancellor of The University of Texas System, said: “The University of Texas System is honored to be recognized in the Beyond Completion Challenge. This grant will help undergraduate students across the UT System transition into high-value careers by expanding access to micro-credentials that arm students with the skills most valued by Texas employers. Pairing a bachelor’s degree with an industry-recognized credential will give students a competitive edge in the labor market while also enhancing their undergraduate experience.” 

At the University of Arizona, Abra McAndrew, assistant vice president for Access, Engagement & Opportunity, said: “Strada's Beyond Completion Challenge puts resources and support behind one of the issues University of Arizona is most focused on: ensuring that every student gains career-related experience while earning their degree. We know that internships make a difference in the outcomes of first-generation students and we're grateful for this opportunity to enhance our efforts and commitment to equitable outcomes for these students.”

“We’ve seen firsthand how the nature and quality of student engagement has a measurable impact on success and well-being long after graduation,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The innovation grant will help us further develop a student experience strategy that is more effective and equitable, and can be shared with other institutions pursuing similar goals.”

In the coming months, all members of the Taskforce will be invited to join the innovation grant recipients in a community of practice to share information and learn what’s working to help students succeed beyond completion.

Later this year, the institutions that are awarded support in Phase One, as well as other Taskforce members, will be invited to compete for additional funding to expand their work. The emphasis in Phase Two will be to reach larger numbers of students or to partner with other institutions or industries to significantly share and expand effective practices.

Learn more about the Taskforce’s work and Strada’s Beyond Completion Challenge here.

Strada will share more information on early insights from initiatives and related projects already in progress during a Public Viewpoint webinar on Jan. 19.

 

About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a nonprofit dedicated to helping people take advantage of education and training after high school that helps them secure a good job, do meaningful work, contribute to their communities, and lead a fulfilling life. We believe education and training after high school have the potential to be the most powerful and equitable ways to help all people thrive in their careers and lives. To help students succeed beyond completion of a certificate or degree, we conduct research, make charitable grants and social impact investments, and support Strada Collaborative, which directly serves students and workers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.

About the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

The Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity is a collective of 37 institutions, including 35 higher education presidents and chancellors, representing 2.4 million students across public, private, two-and four-year institutions. To address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising income inequality, and the changing nature of work, the Taskforce aims to expand higher education's contribution to society by supporting students entering the workforce, partnering with communities, and delivering accessible, applicable, and high-quality education. The Taskforce provides new opportunities to collaborate, share insights, and scale impact across the higher education ecosystem. Learn more at TaskforceOnHigherEd.org.

Strada Education Network Launches $10 Million Beyond Completion Challenge in Partnership with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

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Strada Education Network Launches $10 Million Beyond Completion Challenge in Partnership with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

Grant competition seeks to connect learning with employment for first-generation students, those who struggle to afford education, and students of color.

INDIANAPOLIS — Strada Education Network announced today a $10 million grant challenge aimed at helping higher education institutions launch, test, and scale innovations that improve career and life opportunities after graduation for more students of color as well as first-generation students and those who struggle to afford education.

Strada is partnering with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity to launch the Beyond Completion Challenge to reimagine higher education to better serve students’ needs. Each institution participating in the challenge will develop an initiative on their campus or in collaboration with other organizations, including industry partners, that fosters a more effective higher education experience. The challenge — which includes $3 million in innovation grants this year and $7 million in scaling grants in 2022 — is intended to support initiatives that will focus on equitable outcomes through and beyond college completion. The Taskforce, created in the spring of 2020 by three dozen presidents and chancellors representing close to 100 colleges and universities and 2.4 million students with organizational support from McKinsey & Company, has been working to improve higher education to address persistent inequities that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We want to recognize and extend the great work these institutions are already doing to re-envision postsecondary education. We hope the Beyond Completion Challenge will help close equity gaps for more graduates, especially for those who have faced the most barriers,” said Strada’s Ruth Watkins. “We must shift our focus beyond completion of credentials and degrees. We need to design and deliver an educational experience that connects learning with employment so that every student can secure a good job, do meaningful work, and lead a fulfilling life.”

James B. Milliken, chancellor of The University of Texas System and a member of the Taskforce, said support from Strada is an important milestone in the Taskforce’s work and a vote of confidence in the colleges and universities who are collaborating to improve student outcomes beyond earning a credential or degree.

“Institutions of higher education must actively connect learning with employment so that we can meet the needs of our workforce and provide equitable outcomes for students,” Milliken said.

“This funding will help give institutions the resources to create those pathways.” CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said the challenge “aligns with the priorities of the Taskforce and CUNY’s own ongoing efforts to connect students, especially those from underserved communities, to employment opportunities that advance their careers and remove barriers to economic and social mobility.”

“This grant competition is a testament to the value and efficacy of the Taskforce, which, through partnerships like this, advances the goal of realizing a more equitable and inclusive economic recovery, one that embraces and creates career pathways for the most vulnerable students,” he said.

President Kate Smith of Rio Salado College, said: “This generous investment Strada is making in the Taskforce will provide critical seed money for colleges to create new, customized learning opportunities that increase access to higher learning, gainful employment, and socio-economic mobility.”

About the Beyond Completion Challenge

The challenge will be conducted in two phases. In this first phase, Taskforce institutions are invited to propose new projects that will help students achieve measurable outcomes focused on employment, economic stability, and fulfillment of purpose. Up to 15 projects will be funded at up to $250,000 per project for a total of $3 million to be awarded in Phase One.

In 2022, institutions that were awarded support in Phase One, and other Taskforce members, will be invited to expand their work. The emphasis in Phase Two will be to reach larger numbers of students or to partner with other institutions or industries to significantly share and expand effective practices. An additional up to $7 million will be awarded in Phase Two.

Courtney McBeth, Strada senior vice president who is leading the challenge, said priority will be given to those proposals that include diverse and inclusive leadership and implementation teams, student perspectives, data to identify solutions, and initiatives with the potential to be expanded and sustained to help large numbers of students in the future. In addition, institutions must show strong support by their leadership and be eager to pursue additional public, philanthropic, and institutional funding to support the initiative.

Learn more about the Taskforce’s work and Strada’s Beyond Completion Challenge here.

About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a new kind of nonprofit social impact organization, dedicated to increasing individuals’ economic mobility through purposeful connections between education and employment. Our approach combines innovative research, thought leadership, strategic philanthropy and investments, and support for individuals through student coaching, work-based learning, career exploration, and helping adults learn new skills throughout their careers.

Together, we work to better serve the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education and training, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.

About the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

The Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity is a community of three dozen presidents and chancellors representing nearly 100 public, private, two- and four-year institutions and 2.4 million students. The Taskforce was launched in 2020 to address the challenges of the pandemic, income inequality, the changing nature of work, and unemployment among recent college graduates. Learn more at Taskforceonhighered.org.

Washington Post | LIVE U.S. Higher Education: Rethinking the Possibilities

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Washington Post | LIVE U.S. Higher Education: Rethinking the Possibilities

The Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity is proud to sponsor the upcoming Washington Post Live program, U.S. Higher Education: Rethinking the Possibilities on Thursday, March 25 at 12:00 p.m., Eastern. The program will feature one of America’s experts on the evolving role of higher education as well as a former dean of Howard University’s School of Education.

Preview of the event invite document
View the announcement

In a segment presented by The Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity, Dr. Anne Kress, president of Northern Virginia Community College, and James B. Milliken, chancellor of The University of Texas System, will discuss the opportunities for higher education to address the societal challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, the unemployment rate among recent college graduates equaled the peak rate of the 2008 recession. Dr. Kress and Chancellor Milliken will also address what unique challenges students and communities face during this time, why taking action to address social inequities is critical, and how higher education can support students through the post-pandemic economy.

Register online.

University Leaders Nationwide Launch Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

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University Leaders Nationwide Launch Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

Wide-ranging partnership of nearly 40 higher education leaders commits to address major challenges facing students and communities across the country.

Today, leaders from 38 higher education institutions and partner organizations launched the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity. They are driven to act by the challenges of the pandemic, income inequality, the changing nature of work, and unemployment among recent college graduates being nearly double the 2008 recession. The impact of this crisis is falling unevenly across groups, disproportionately impacting people of color no matter their educational backgrounds. The Taskforce will provide greater opportunity to students and their communities, while reimagining higher education's contribution to society and sharing insights with the broader education community.

The Taskforce brings together members from across American higher education, including public, private, two-year, and four-year institutions that represent 2.5 million students nationwide. Taskforce members are focused on three key goals: ensuring student success despite the worst recession since World War II, partnering with local communities, and reimagining how higher education is delivered.

Schools will take individual and collective action to meet the shared mission of the Taskforce through new goals set every six months. Member institutions are now launching the first round of initiatives to prepare the graduates of 2021 - 2023 for success in the post-pandemic economy. In the coming months, Taskforce members will develop programs to support local communities, and additional programs will follow to reimagine the future of higher education and prepare students for work in a post-pandemic world.

“The true measure of success for any higher education institution is the success of all of its students in reaching their full potential. Unfortunately, outcomes for different groups remain unequal, and the Covid-19 pandemic is only exacerbating the differences,” said Georgia Institute of Technology President Ángel Cabrera. “Georgia Tech is proud to join together with peers and partners across the country in this shared commitment. With Career Alliance @ Georgia Tech, we want to ensure all students get the resources and access they need to turn their Georgia Tech degree into long-term professional success.”

For the first round of initiatives, Taskforce members are taking action to set students and graduates up for success and security in the post-pandemic economy. That includes creating opportunities for students to gain valuable skills and professional experience. The first round of initiatives will help prepare students for post-graduate employment through internships, mentoring, credentialing opportunities, and other professional development programs. For example, Career Alliance @ Georgia Tech, an initiative launched by Georgia Tech, will connect students with internship, work-study, and mentorship opportunities to learn marketable job skills.

"The career advancement program we’re launching will be a true game-changer," said Anne M. Kress, President of Northern Virginia Community College, and Taskforce executive committee member. "The Achieve Career Excellence (ACE) program demonstrates how an essential road to recovery for individuals, communities, and the economy runs through our nation’s community colleges."

Though each initiative is different, all focus on helping students learn the skills they need to begin a successful career after graduation. Achieve Career Excellence enables Northern Virginia Community College students to earn professional credentials while still at school, giving them a leg up in the post-graduate hiring process. The University of Texas System's initiative will also expand credentialing opportunities for students, identifying skill gaps from employers statewide and empowering students to fill those gaps by learning in-demand skills.

"Higher education plays a unique role in unlocking opportunity. It should deliver for all members of our society," said James B. Milliken, Chancellor of the University of Texas System, and Taskforce executive committee member. "Post-graduate success today isn't going to look like post-graduate success tomorrow. Our initiative, Texas Credentials for the Future, focuses on ensuring that support is in place long after students leave campus."

Taskforce membership will continue to grow to diversify and scale impact with a focus on action – uniquely positioning the Taskforce in the higher education space. To learn more about the Taskforce and member institutions' initiatives, click here.

Taskforce members include:

  • Mark Becker, President of Georgia State University
  • Gene D. Block, Chancellor of University of California, Los Angeles
  • Seth Bodnar, President of University of Montana
  • Bob Brown, President of Boston University*
  • Ángel Cabrera, President of Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College*
  • Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University
  • Carol Folt, President of University of Southern California*
  • Joan Gabel, President University of Minnesota
  • Patrick Gallagher, Chancellor of University of Pittsburgh
  • Michael L. Good, President of University of Utah
  • Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Andrew David Hamilton, President of New York University
  • Anne Kress, President of Northern Virginia Community College*
  • Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University
  • Linda Livingstone, President of Baylor University
  • Sarah Mangelsdorf, President of University of Rochester
  • Andrew Martin, Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis
  • Harold Martin, Chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University
  • Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Chancellor of City University of New York*
  • Gary May, Chancellor of University of California, Davis
  • Joe May, Chancellor of Dallas College
  • James Milliken, Chancellor of University of Texas System*
  • Mark Mitsui, President of Portland Community College
  • Darryll Pines, President of University of Maryland
  • Vincent Price, President of Duke University
  • Scott Pulsipher, President of Western Governors University*
  • Scott Ralls, President of Wake Technical Community College
  • Robert C. Robbins, President of University of Arizona*
  • Timothy Sands, President of Virginia Tech
  • Michael Schill, President of University of Oregon
  • Kate Smith, President of Rio Salado College
  • Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., President of Michigan State University
  • Astrid S. Tuminez, President of Utah Valley University
  • Gregory Washington, President of George Mason University
  • Federico Zaragoza, President of College of Southern Nevada
  • Ruth Watkins, President of Strada Impact at Strada Education Network
  • André Dua, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company*

* Indicates Taskforce Executive Committee Member and/or Goal 1 Initiative Lead