$6 Million Awarded To Expand Higher Education Programs Aimed at Student Success Beyond College Completion

Three-year grants awarded to four institutions will support expansion of programs designed to help learners succeed during and after completion of their degree or credential. These programs deploy a broad range of strategies from new technology solutions to embedded, industry-recognized credentials, which will be made available to thousands of new learners through these grants.

INDIANAPOLIS — Strada Education Network announced today the recipients of four $1.5 million grants, as part of its $10 million Beyond Completion Challenge. The grants are designed to help higher education institutions substantially expand promising efforts to improve long-term outcomes for many more students, especially those who historically have faced the greatest barriers in education and the workforce. The grantees are Arizona State University, Rio Salado College, the University of Texas, and the University of Utah.

“These four institutions have already found ways to support the success of their learners beyond completion,” said Stephen Moret, Strada Education Network president and CEO. “We are excited to provide these grants so they can reach more learners than ever before and expand to new communities and even other institutions that are joining their efforts. We are honored to have the opportunity to support such forward-thinking and acting partners.”

“We’re thrilled to have this support to expand the Work+ program to all 12,000 working learners at ASU and thousands more through our partnerships with other two- and four-year institutions,” said Sukhwant Jhaj, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Student Achievement at Arizona State University.  “It’s time to reinvent work-and-learn programs so they deliver much greater value for our learners during their time on campus. This program will deliver the relevant career skills that students expect and employers value.”

“Workplace skills and requisite knowledge are changing more rapidly than ever, leading to more adults coming back to college to unlock greater opportunities in their chosen profession,” Rio Salado College President Kate Smith said. “Rio Salado and community colleges across the country are answering the call. Through this support, our Custom Academic Readiness and Essential Employment Reskilling program will now be able to equip 5,000 adult learners with the tools and resources they need to select and complete valuable certificates, credentials, and degrees, which translate into real- world earnings and strengthen local economies.”

These grantees represent the second phase of Strada’s $10 million Beyond Completion Challenge. In the first phase, 15 institutions received a total of up to $250,000 each to identify and expand new solutions that will improve career and life opportunities for more students. The Phase 2 grantees received $1.5 million each to expand and evaluate their initiatives over a three-year grant cycle. Programs in Phase 2 will deliver tailored career and professional support to thousands of students across the four institutions selected and beyond. The four recipients of this grant and their associated programs are listed below. 

“As we developed the Beyond Completion Challenge, we were motivated by what students, families, and employers are seeking from higher education today: postsecondary education that provides greater certainty about employment and social and economic mobility beyond degree completion,” said Ruth V. Watkins, Strada president of postsecondary education. “Phase 1 grants brought forward a wide range of innovative ideas for how two- and four-year institutions can respond to these changing expectations. The projects supported in Phase 2 allow the smaller set of  partner institutions to make big bets on the approaches with highest potential for delivering the outcomes students, families, and employers now seek. We look forward to learning with these partners how postsecondary education can fulfill its promise.”

Arizona State University will expand its Work+ program and pilot it at other schools. Arizona State University also received Strada funding in the first phase of the Beyond Completion Challenge. The Work+ 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 other two- and four-year institutions across the country, with the potential of reaching a total of 19,000 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 majors often associated with low earnings, 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.

About the Beyond Completion Challenge
The $10 million Beyond Completion Challenge partners with higher education institutions and provides vital funding to launch, test, and scale initiatives designed to ensure that students — especially people of color, first-generation students, and those who struggle to pay for their education — are positioned to succeed long after graduation. Learn more about Strada’s Beyond Completion Challenge here.

About the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

Strada’s core partner for the Challenge is the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity, a community of three dozen presidents and chancellors representing nearly 100 public, private, two-year 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/.

Strada Education Network is a national nonprofit organization 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. Strada helps students succeed beyond completion of a certificate or degree through its research, charitable grants, and social impact investments, as well as through the work of Strada-supported nonprofit organizations, CAEL, Education at Work, InsideTrack, and Roadtrip Nation, which directly serve learners and workers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.


Strada media contact: Brian Hendrickson, Interim Head of Communications, brian.hendrickson@stradaeducation.org.

Partner Media Contacts:

Arizona State University – Nikai Salcido, media relations officer, Nikai.Salcido@asu.edu
The University of Texas system – Catherine Frazier, director of media relations, cfrazier@utsystem.edu
University of Utah – Kathy Wilets, kathy.wilets@utah.edu
Rio Salado Community College – Michelle Reese,michelle.reese@riosalado.edu