7 rural community colleges join forces to improve student outcomes |

The cohort will be part of an Achieving the Dream mission to bridge the equity and achievement gaps, strengthen digital workforce readiness, and build ‘resilience’ within their regions.

More than 45 million U.S. residents live in rural communities, and many face challenges that those in urban areas do not experience: chronic disease, lack of infrastructure, access to good health care, and especially services. lower academic performance.

These issues all became widely apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic as families in these places struggle with job loss, literacy, mobility and access to high-quality education.

Reversing these trends is one of the missions of Achieving the Dream, which has created a new initiative called Building the resilience of rural communities for the future of work who hopes to improve the results of students in these fields. Seven community colleges across the United States have been selected to lead the charge in improving education through building digital skills that will help students achieve better futures. Additionally, institutions themselves will benefit by becoming more nimble in their ability to bridge gaps in equity and achievement.

“Rural community colleges have long been engines of the economic and civic vitality of their communities, playing a critical role in ensuring social and economic mobility,” said Karen Stout, President and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “As Achieving the Dream strives to help our colleges foster campus diversity and equity, we recognize the importance of creating a network that reflects the diversity of institutions across our country. “

Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit that works with more than 300 colleges and universities to “advocate for institutional improvement,” says the initial cohort will include:

The goal of ATD’s effort, which is supported by a number of companies and organizations, is not only to guide community colleges as they undertake a ‘whole college approach’, but to better prepare them. students for the jobs of tomorrow, helping them to be more employable in better and better paid careers.

“We recognize that rural community colleges are anchors in their communities, providing opportunities for learners, employers and the local economy,” said Amy Kerwin, vice president of educational philanthropy at Ascendium Education Group , one of the funders of the initiative. “We are delighted to support this cohort as they exchange ideas on how to initiate large-scale institutional change to prepare and increase the number of rural learners from low-income backgrounds who graduate and enter. the work market. “

The seven participating community colleges began the process in January and will attend events throughout the year, including ATD’s 2021 Virtual DREAM taking place today and tomorrow. In addition to these meetings, colleges will be assisted by coaches throughout their 5-7 year journey as they build their capacity and data to bridge these gaps, create pathways and momentum, create community partnerships and stimulate student success through social and economic mobility.

Along the way, they will have access to and contribute to reports from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which provides regular updates on student results and enrollments. Community colleges and those in low-income areas have been among the hardest hit in both enrollment and retention during the pandemic, so data is vital in helping many position themselves for the future. the future.

Two of the partners who helped fund the project cited the important role community colleges play, particularly in rural communities.

Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy for Walmart.org, says that “rural community colleges are well equipped to provide development opportunities for the rapidly changing workforce in their regions.” And Monique Baptiste, vice president of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, adds: “Equitable access to skills and real-world work experience is essential to connect students to good jobs, regardless of their zip code. . “

About Keneth T. Graves

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