By Anna Gatlin, Vice President, National Engagement and Strategic Communications, USA Funds
The recent Education Commission of the States annual forum helps illustrate how USA Funds® is partnering with governors and other state policy leaders who share our mission of ensuring that students complete their education with a purpose.
USA Funds sponsored and participated in the ECS event in Washington, D.C., which included three days of diverse and thought-provoking presentations and panels.
This forum and the policy and technical support ECS provides to states make them a natural partner for USA Funds’ Completion With a Purpose® efforts. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the current chairman of ECS and one of our state philanthropic partners, kicked off the forum by discussing his chair’s initiative: improving student success through dual enrollment.
The national forum promotes policy ideas that have proven results in moving students through their educational paths and on to successful careers. ECS focuses on presenting best practices both in K-12 and postsecondary education, while also supporting states through technical assistance.
As a USA Funds grantee, ECS has worked to promote promising and impactful options for states to improve their financial aid policies. The organization also has created a 50-state database of the largest state-funded financial aid programs. ECS also provides technical assistance to states that want to rethink and improve how to use state and federal funds to promote educational success and completion. (ECS currently is accepting requests for technical assistance through this USA Funds-sponsored program. Complete an interest form by Aug. 1 to learn more.)
To date, this USA Funds-supported work has yielded the following results:
- Nine thousand downloads of a national expert task force report.
- Technical assistance for six states.
- Engagement with over 20 states regarding these best practices.
- The promotion of the findings of this work at national events and forums.
During the forum, ECS shared information about this ongoing work and the partnership with USA Funds, and discussed additional opportunities that states will have to join this movement to better translate financial aid into student success.
Derek Redelman, USA Funds vice president of policy and research, participated in a panel, “Measuring College Value from the Consumer Perspective and Beyond,” which spotlighted USA Funds’ college value initiative. This multi-state effort aims to provide all consumers — policymakers, higher education leaders, and students and families — with better access to both quantitative and qualitative outcomes of their education options. The consumer voice is heard loud and clear in so many other venues, and USA Funds is committed to providing opportunities for consumer feedback to shape educational opportunities.
The ECS college value panel featured USA Funds partners Brandon Busteed of Gallup and Mark Schneider of College Measures. They joined members of the business community, who shared how information tools, and their potential impact for various audiences and users, are reshaping the discussion about the value of a college degree. As part of our college value efforts, USA Funds has provided $3.5 million in grants, and our grant recipients currently are working with nearly a dozen states.
Among the college value initiatives discussed by the panelists is the recently announced Launch My Career tool. Colorado and Tennessee have announced Launch My Career websites for their states. These sites are distinctive because they incorporate the following elements:
- Use state longitudinal data on education and workforce outcomes.
- Measure outcomes at the program level, rather than the institutional level.
- Compare the costs of an education with the returns from employment and wages, as well as qualitative measures like job satisfaction and community engagement.
- Analyze supply and demand to help demonstrate whether the production of specific academic credentials meets employer demands.
We are hoping to share these tools and add more states to the movement in the coming months.
This ECS forum is a great example of states coming together to share what’s working and to learn from national experts. Our work with states and with partners like ECS to support state-led efforts continues to be a critical partnership in advancing Completion With a Purpose.