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Call for Participants: Texas Adult Students' College and Career Success

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) seeks North Texas postsecondary institutions to participate in a 3-year initiative focused on improving adult student success in college and career.    

CAEL is pursuing a private foundation grant opportunity to support this initiative, which would engage up to 12 institutions in an Adult Learner Success Academy beginning in late fall 2021. 

Please complete this form by June 18, 2021 if your institution is interested in participating in this initiative, should funding be secured. 

Why Adult Students?

CAEL is a national nonprofit working to improve education-to-career pathways for adult learners. CAEL helps organizations succeed by providing expertise, resources, and innovative solutions that effectively support adult learners as they navigate on- and off-ramps between education and employment.

According to Excelencia in Education, Texas boasts the second-largest number of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) in the U.S. (100), as well as a growing number of emerging HSIs (47). Many Latinx-enrolling institutions are now developing intentional strategies for supporting Latinx student success — and these efforts are paying off. The Center for American Progress reports that from 2007-2017, the percentage of young Latinx learners who earned a college credential rose 9.4 percentage points. As institutions continue to support Latinx student success, it is important that they also focus on the particular needs of the Latinx adult student whose postsecondary experiences are different from students transitioning directly from high school to college.

The Project: Adult Learner Success (ALS) Academy

The Adult Learner Success (ALS) Academy is a 3-year initiative (2021-2024) that will provide tools for postsecondary institutions to examine closely how they are serving their adult students. CAEL provides participating institutions support and technical assistance to implement new policies and practices to drive better enrollment, persistence, and completion of adult students, and create successful career connections and job placement.    

This initiative is modeled after the successful 3-year initiative (2018-2021) Latino Adult Student Success Academy in which five Texas institutions participated among the cohort of fifteen Hispanic Serving Institutions across the country. CAEL partnered with Excelencia in Education to specifically provide support for Latinx adult student enrollment and completion yet also apply principles of adult learner success to all populations supported by the participating Texas institutions.

This North Texas ALS Academy will use CAEL’s Adult Learner 360 diagnostic tool to identify areas for improving services to the adult learner at participating institutions. The Adult Learner 360 uses a student survey and an institutional survey in this process, which will be administered in fall 2021 or spring 2022. For more information on the Adult Learner 360, please visit the CAEL website.

Based on Adult Learner 360 results, the ALS Academy will help participating institutions take actionable steps to implement plans to better serve their adult students. The participating ALS Academy institutions will become members of a community of practice, meeting virtually and in person annually to learn from each other at an Adult Learner Success Convening (ALSC). As part of the ALS Academy, CAEL will guide participating institutions in an extensive action planning and evaluation process. CAEL and partnering organizations will provide technical assistance, tools, and annual stipends to support institutions in implementing their identified action plans and collecting data to track their progress.

North Texas Adult Learner Success Academy: Career Pathway Focus

This North Texas ALS Academy will specifically target support for participating institutions to help adults navigate career options and connect to jobs. Now more than ever, it is crucial for institutions to advance data-driven strategies that improve student employment outcomes by ensuring career relevance. 

Traditional labor market sources are simply not designed to predict the future of work. Leveraging labor market data tools from organizations such as Emsi or Burning Glass, and regional labor market sources and career pathways data created by local workforce and economic development agencies, CAEL would aim to support further linking institutions’ curriculum to the future of work and students to jobs. 

Starting with up-to-date labor market supply and demand data, CAEL would then validate skill needs with employers, building relationships along the way. By conducting an inventory of other postsecondary programs, CAEL would support participating institutions to identify a niche in the region. With this precise information, institutions would be able to create specific, actionable, regional strategies to help education, workforce, economic development, and employer stakeholders better align education and work and form partnerships to provide students with relevant, work-based learning opportunities.   

The potential benefits of institutions adopting this strategy are:

  • Students will be provided transparent career pathways to help them select coursework that will lead to employment upon graduation;
  • Students will have increased opportunities for work-based learning;
  • Institutions will improve communication with employers regarding industry needs, and work together to develop competency maps to help build a skilled workforce;
  • Institutions will regularly work with employers to evaluate how specific programs align to changing in-demand skills and competencies; and 
  • Institutions will increase and improve engagement with employer partners. 

Through the ongoing evaluation process, CAEL will work with institutions to develop measures for progress that relate to improving employer relationships and, eventually, student job placement. 

The short-term objectives of the Adult Learner Success Academy are to:

  • Examine how institutions currently serve their adult students’ needs;
  • Promote and support sustainable change in adult student models and support systems;
  • Better align institutions’ curricula to in-demand careers; and
  • Increase student work-based learning opportunities (including internships, apprenticeships, etc.)

The expected longer-term impact is that these changes would contribute to measurable improvements in areas such as enrollment, graduation, persistence, completion, and post-completion outcomes for adult learners, as well as stronger education-employer partnerships for linking learning and work.  

Participating institutions will: 

    • Conduct the Adult Learning 360 survey with students, faculty and staff
    • Develop action and evaluation plans that include: 
      • curricular alignment with in-demand careers
      • planning for and implementation of work-based learning 
      • additional plans for Latinx adult student support, increasing adult student enrollment, credit for prior learning, and/or other strategies 
    • Track and report progress of action plans
    • Conduct and participate in program evaluation 
    • Participate in annual convening with ALS Academy cohort 
    • Receive stipends for:
      • action planning
      • research
      • curricular review and revision, and 
      • travel to convenings for 3 years

Potential Support of the Initiative

CAEL is seeking funding from the Communities Foundation of Texas for this opportunity, and will be informed about their decision in fall 2021. Given that the Communities Foundation of Texas geographic focus is limited to 20 North Texas counties, only those institutions within those counties are eligible to be considered. (Eligible North Texas counties include: Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Erath, Fannon, Grayson, Hood, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Montague, Navarro, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwell, Somervell, Tarrant, and Wise.)  

Learn More

For more information about this potential initiative and your institution’s participation, please complete this form by June 18, 2021.