By: Michele Thornal

Getting Adults to the Academic Finish Line is Just the Beginning

Today’s economic development and labor market requirements demand thoughtful investment in the knowledge and skills of our workforce. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce states “At the current production rate in higher education, we will fall 5 million short of the workers with postsecondary credentials we will need by 2020.”1 Five Million – think about that.

In concerted efforts to stem that tide, states across the nation are establishing adult degree completion initiatives targeting those with college credit but no degree or qualification. Outreach and the dissemination of timely, practical information are key, concrete steps outlined in many of their policy and practices. The establishment of online portals as an advising resource for a more dispersed population has been a popular avenue of choice to reinforce these steps.

Getting it right is vital to meeting rigorous re-engagement and attainment goals. With this in mind, how do we take measure and determine the most efficacious tools and supports to make available on a website?

In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam aspires to see a 55% credential completion rate by the year 2025. He envisioned the TN Reconnect initiative and its dedicated website as crucial to getting there. It provides a gateway to the estimated 900,000 to 1 million adults with some college but no degree to discover how they can get back in the game and improve their employment and earning opportunities. Resources to equip them for success not only include institution and program searches, but also a virtual prior learning portfolio tool, program completion and course equivalency mapping applications, and a cost calculator. A collaborative design effort by the two public University Systems and the TN Higher Education Commission has resulted in a robust site where adults can effectively explore and plan their academic and career options, therefore ensuring the state will remain competitive with a more skilled workforce in the future.