AL's College Network Aims to Empower Students, Strengthen Workforce
Thursday, June 15, 2023
Legislation has just gone into effect this month in Alabama that should help people who started on the path to their college degree or credential but weren't able to finish.
Senate Bill 175 is seen as a way to increase the number of adults who go back to school. It will establish a ReEngage Alabama Grant Program for eligible adult learners.
The Historically Black and Predominantly Black Community College Network sees this as another step toward what these schools are already working on.
Chandra Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible, explained that they're challenging misconceptions about community college and encouraging former students to come back.
"We have to change our perspective and the narrative in which we talk about community colleges across our state," said Scott. "They are the biggest asset to fulfilling not only the business and workforce pipeline, but also to ending generational poverty across our state."
Alabama is pushing to add 500,000 people with post-secondary credentials to the state's workforce by 2025, as part of Gov. Kay Ivey's "Success Plus" plan.
According to Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, the state has seen more than 200,000 upskilled workers since the plan launched in 2018.
Nia Haydel, Ph.D, vice president for Alliance, Engagement and Institutional Transformation with the nonprofit Complete College America, emphasized that adult learners in the community college setting may need more support to finish their degrees - as many juggle work, parenting and other responsibilities.
This means resources like career counselors, mental health support, and courses that contribute to higher graduation rates and more workforce credentials.
"They are very, very intentional in how they craft their services and their environment," said Haydel, "to make sure that the whole student is being supported and motivated to finish or complete their program."
According to Haydel, the Network launched in August 2021 to assess how educational experiences affect career outcomes for students of color. It is made up of 22 community college campuses across eight states.
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