Think Tank Program Focuses on Nontraditional Learners - Higher Education

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Think Tank Program Focuses on Nontraditional Learners


by Joyce Jones

WASHINGTON – The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a nonprofit research and advocacy group, has launched a new Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success (C-PES), which will advocate for policies, funding and political support to increase the number of low-income adults and disadvantaged youth who earn postsecondary credentials.

CLASP Workforce Development Director Evelyn Ganzglass says that historically more emphasis has been on helping low-income students just coming out of high school become better prepared for college admission and graduation.

“We did not see enough work being done for low-income adults, people working in low-income jobs and people who may not have a high school diploma who really need to get better credentials to get better jobs,” Ganzglass says of CLASP’s research in this area.

Although many organizations have some focus on this area, C-PES is the only organization that will focus solely on it. Grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates, Joyce and Ford foundations fund the center.

Dr. Michelle Cooper, president of the  Institute for Higher Education Policy, applauds this new initiative, particularly because the center will focus exclusively on low-income and disadvantaged workers. Cooper sits on the center’s advisory board.

“The fact that they work closely with and have developed allies and partnerships with other key organizations will help to leverage their work and ensure that the efforts are integrated in various policies and services across the board for students,” she says.

The center will target low-income adults and disadvantaged youth, with a particular focus on what Ganzglass described as “dropout” and “disconnected” youths. C-PES aims to ensure that those groups are given access to associate and bachelor’s degrees and certificate and apprenticeship programs that lead to credentials that have value in the labor market.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school dropouts age 25 or higher in August was 14 percent compared with an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent for people who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“Our emphasis is on economics as well and we’re doing this to help people get better jobs and advance economically,” Ganzglass says.


The center focuses on four policy areas:


  • Connecting education, training and support services so constituents are prepared to meet work-force demands.
  • Expanding student financing and support for low-income adults. Ganzglass says often adults are an afterthought when it comes to financial aid and the center’s forthcoming tool kit will provide analysis of funding sources available to help adults earn a credential without relying on student loans.
  • Strengthening data and accountability through better integration of information educators and advocates need to know, such as where people are dropping out of the system and what practices are effective.
  • Increasing investment in innovative and effective adult education, workforce development, postsecondary education and other programs.

To achieve these and other goals, C-PES will work closely with other advocacy groups. This month, it meets with the American Council on Education and the Association of Community College Trustees to discuss strategies on how to move forward with the American Graduation Initiative, which emphasized closing access and achievement gaps but was dropped from the health care reconciliation bill.

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