$10 million grant challenge to improve equitable student outcomes beyond college completion.
Strada Education Network, in partnership with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity, launched the $10 million Beyond Completion Challenge to support higher education institutions to identify and expand new solutions that will improve career and life opportunities for more students. We 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.
In Phase 2 of this challenge, launched in January 2023, four grantees received $1.5 million each to expand programs proven to help learners succeed during and after completion of their degree or other credential. Programs in Phase 2 will deliver tailored career and professional support to thousands of students across the four institutions selected and beyond. During Phase 1 of the challenge, 15 institutions were selected for up to $250,000 in innovation grants to support initiatives that focus on equitable outcomes through and beyond college completion.
Our Phase 2 grants are provided to scale and evaluate promising initiatives over a three-year grant cycle:
ASU will expand and export its Work+ program, which also received Strada funding in the first phase of the Beyond Completion Challenge. The program is reshaping the experience of learners directly employed by the university. Through mentorship, peer feedback, and educational programming, Work+ supplements existing student employment and increases learners’ career readiness. This grant will support the expansion of Work+ to cover all 12,000 working learners at ASU. Additionally, it will support the launch of Work+ pilot programs at eight two- and four-year institutions across the country, with the potential of reaching a total of 19,000 additional students.
Rio Salado Community College will expand its Custom Academic Readiness and Essential Employment Reskilling (CAREER) program, which helps learners seeking basic literacy, GED test preparation, workforce preparation and career training to build the academic and employment skills needed to access, persist, and complete college-level coursework and seek fulfilling careers that provide family-sustaining wages. The project will improve equitable access to college and career navigation services for over 5,000 adult learners through the creation of a turnkey college and career navigation system, leading to more credentials, certificate and degree completion, and post-completion employment.
The University of Texas system will expand the system-wide Texas Credentials for the Future initiative, which also received Strada funding in the first phase of the Beyond Completion Challenge. This initiative infuses career readiness into the undergraduate curriculum by including relevant industry microcredentials and skills badges at no additional cost to the learners. The initiative will continue to focus on low-earning majors, while expanding efforts to include other majors in which significant post-graduation earnings disparities exist. The initiative will reach 30,000 students across the system’s 8 academic institutions.
The University of Utah will scale the University of Utah West Valley College2Career program to support the underserved community of West Valley, Utah, by providing college and career navigation services, career pathways, and financial aid support for in-demand health care careers. The program creates clearer and more supportive pathways for students and adult learners to pursue health careers. Building on the University Neighborhood Partners’ place-based approach, the partnership between the West Valley community, University of Utah, and University of Utah Health and hospital system will serve at least 3,600 students from low-income communities and communities of color.
Our initial innovation grants were awarded to 15 institutions and fall into four categories:
SNHU plans to explore how to expand the online delivery of competency-based and course-based education programs in the health professions. The university will partner with healthcare systems and clinics to provide the clinical elements of the education experience, while the online division will develop and deliver the academic curriculum. Grant funds will support partnership building, impact assessment, staff capacity, and consulting services.
In partnership with Google Cloud and Mayo Clinic, NXT GEN MED is a year-round, 2.5 year undergraduate degree program that seeks to prepare diverse students for meaningful careers in the high-demand sector of healthcare. The University estimates the program will save students an average of $26,000 in educational costs. Grant funds will support faculty development, assessment and project management, and the work-based learning activities of internship, mentorship, and transition to employment.
Through the Texas Credentials for the Future initiative, UT System academic institutions will redesign undergraduate degree experiences to incorporate relevant, industry-recognized micro-credentials and skills badges (e.g., Google Professional Certificates) into the curriculum and co-curriculum to help produce graduates with the skills most needed by Texas employers. The initiative is focused on students in majors that typically lead to lower salaries and enroll a disproportionate number of UT undergraduate students of color. Grant funds will support eight institutions within the system as they work to incorporate micro-credentials into at least two degree programs at each institution and facilitate in sharing best practices and lessons learned.
ASU will scale Work+, a recently piloted institutional initiative reshaping the employment experiences of working learners across the university. Through intentionally designed mentorship, student reflections, peer feedback, and educational programming, Work+ supplements existing student employment opportunities to help working learners develop their sense of identity, agency, and purpose, as well as to enhance workforce preparedness. ASU plans to partner with Education at Work to expand this initiative to a major off-campus employer. Grant funds will support technology and digital asset development, stipends, and administrative costs.
The College-to-Career program out of the National Institute for Student Success at Georgia State leverages new, scalable technologies (including data scraping tools and job skills tagging) to equip students from diverse backgrounds with the technical and professional knowledge and skills they need to successfully transition into a competitive global workforce. The program is designed to initially serve students at Georgia State’s six campuses and has potential to scale through sharing evidence-based practices developed with 33 NISS partner institutions, of which 15 are HBCUs or MSIs. Grant funds will be deployed to support LMS development, faculty fellows, and technology.
Designing for Equity in Career Outcomes will develop proofs of concept for scalable strategies that effectively expand career support while equitably increasing the number of students who can complete an internship during their sophomore or junior year. The initiative includes expanded access to online career tools, peer coaching, design project internships, and summer internship scholarships. Grant funds will support student wages, scholarships and cost of living awards, and licenses for online training tools.
The University of Pittsburgh will integrate data-informed career readiness strategies into existing co-curricular programs, including the University of Pittsburgh Provost Academy, Pitt Success and Pell Match programs, and career center programming specifically aimed to address documented racial and socioeconomic disparities in Pitt graduates’ employment outcomes. In addition, the university will build career development strategies into the curriculum and into professional development for faculty and staff.
Georgia Tech’s Office of Minority Educational Development will expand on their proven work to improve the Institute’s outcomes for traditionally underrepresented students. Collaborating with HBCUs and community partner schools, Georgia Tech will expand programs focused on diversity transfer pathway recruitment and retention. Additionally, Georgia Tech will launch a diversity innovation program as well as enhance its career pathway program. Grant funds will support peer coaches and leaders, program housing and travel, training, resources, and study-abroad stipends.
The Creative Careers Accelerator is an innovative six-week program where teams of undergraduate students pursuing creative careers will work with industry partner organizations to solve real-world problems. The program is focused on engaging students from underrepresented communities, as well as those who have demonstrated financial need, are first generation college students, and/or those who face the largest barriers to entry and success in their chosen fields of study. Grant funds will support stipends, childcare, a career readiness bootcamp, networking event, professional attire, supplies, and administrative support.
Connecting Carolina’s Covenant Scholars is an initiative to coordinate targeted career preparation experiences at the university, curated networks of professional advisors, successful alumni and friends, local corporate and industry partners, as well as financial and human resources to enable Carolina Covenant Scholars to successfully pursue and secure competitive careers in the post-pandemic economy. Grant funds will support a range of summer career development experiences for students engaged in the new Covenant Career Accelerator Program under the Connecting Carolina’s Covenant Scholars initiative as well as measurement and evaluation.
The University of Oregon will create a new six-month, intensive, cohort-based program for students of color and low-income students. Ducks RISE will empower students for career success through research, internships, and student experiences including a hybrid career class, tailored connections to networks, workshops and professional development opportunities, coaching and mentoring, and access to internships, leadership, and research experiences. Grant funds, matched dollar for dollar by the university, will be used to support programming, direct student aid, and administrative capacity.
Virginia Tech will expand the university’s Presidential Scholars scholarship and student support program to reach more students from low-income households. At the same time, the university will add research, project-based work, and paid internships to the program to facilitate student success in transition to the workforce. Grant funds, matched dollar for dollar by the institution, will support an additional 72 Presidential Scholars and expanded workforce learning opportunities.
The CUNY Alumni/ae Activation Initiative will leverage the expansive and untapped/unutilized CUNY alumni network and relationships with companies that employ large-numbers of CUNY graduates to improve post-graduation outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. The initiative will support campus alumni directors in developing and executing a strategic plan to build alumni engagement and deployment infrastructure with the power to improve student career outcomes through professional networking, career exploration, teaching and mentoring. Grant funds will support personnel, supporting software, and events.
With Project ARROW: Adults Re-engaging and Realizing Opportunities in the Workforce, North Carolina A&T State seeks to understand barriers to success for adult learners from minority communities through building institutional data capacity and structures. The findings will inform institutions on best practices for promoting degree completion and career preparedness for these learners, particularly at HBCUs. Grant funding will support staff capacity to collect qualitative and quantitative data, analyze patterns, and disseminate findings.
Career Up is a new program designed to extend and enhance NOVA’s career services capabilities, personalized to meet the unique needs of first-generation community college students. The 15-week intensive program includes four components covering personal attributes, career exploration, planning, and job preparation. NOVA will also develop a Career Awareness Toolkit to empower faculty and staff with career-related resources. Grant funds will support student supplies, scholarships, webinars and training materials, and personnel.
Phase 2 allows Taskforce members to seek up to $1.5 million ($6.25 million total) to expand efforts to connect education to employment.
Higher education’s measurement of student success is in the midst of an evolution. For nearly five decades, success efforts focused on access, then two decades with completion as the horizon for success, and now the focus is extending to student outcomes beyond completion.
A pilot program offers microcredentials that can help students find success after graduation
Equity challenges continue to prevent many students from gaining access to college, completing postsecondary education, and experiencing economic mobility and other outcomes beyond completion of college.
Grant competition in partnership with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity seeks to help students connect learning with employment