On December 9, 2021, Rhode Island Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Shannon Gilkey released the report of recommendations created by his Advisory Committee, which was charged with helping to guide the priorities of higher education in Rhode Island for the next five years. Key among the recommendations were: 1) Intensification of participation among adults 25 and older, minorities, and high school students; 2) Expansion of direct supports to students; and 3) Fixing structural barriers that hamper student success. The committee met in three day-long sessions, and the results of the conversations will inform the strategic direction of the work of our office.
Key among the recommendations were: 1) Intensification of participation among adults 25 and older, minorities, and high school students; 2) Expansion of direct supports to students; and 3) Fixing structural barriers that hamper student success.
“Essentially, the Advisory Committee found that in order for the state to make good, living-wage jobs with longevity accessible to more Rhode Islanders, the higher education system needs to focus its efforts on students who sometimes find themselves struggling to earn degrees and credentials that will qualify them for those very jobs,” said Commissioner Gilkey. “Rhode Island needs to make the college/workforce training experience easier for any person, at any age, to attain any degree or credential without complications. For too long, the people who enter workforce training or college on a different schedule than the ‘right-after-high-school’ path discover that their path can be fraught with issues such as debt, childcare, full-time work, biases, limited choices, and outdated policies. Fortunately, we have an established base of resources, talent, vested parties, and the sheer will to make our higher education system more accessible, more affordable, and more helpful to learners.”
“Upon examination of the data, it is clear that students who are black, indigenous, or persons of color are underrepresented in the workforce training and college sectors,” said Ledbetter. “Addressing adult BIPOC barriers with direct resources will certainly aid in persistence and completion.”
Added Weygand, “As a state, we need to help BIPOC students in K-12 classrooms start their college experiences earlier and with more marketing, education, and outreach. The programs to earn college credits and even associate degrees are available and are successful, but most are underutilized and favored by white students. The expansion to all high school students will boost attainment and enable high school graduates to continue on successfully to college or begin work with necessary credentials already in hand.”
Chief among the other recommendations were: increasing workforce trainings that support the R.I. economy; equity in enrollment; expanding the Rhode Island Reconnect program; improving the education data collection system; adding more advisors and equipping them with better communications about training and learning options; and creating a statewide prior learning assessment program.