Priorities Report: Postsecondary Institutions


Postsecondary Institutions

College and university leaders, administrators and faculty 

Faculty and staff take the lead on student success coaching, career-related education and services, and assistance with financial aid.


Make postsecondary education affordable for low- and middle-income families

Lower the college cost burden for low- and middle-income students and families.

Institutions of higher education can develop and improve their practices related to affordability with actions such as

Switch university need-based aid from a last-dollar to a first-dollar funding method to provide more funding to low-income students so that they have enough to cover costs like school materials, high-speed internet, transportation, housing and childcare at contemporaneous prices. 

Provide more university need-based aid and scholarships to low- and middle-income students.

Strive to meet two-thirds of the cost of attendance for as many students as possible, starting with those facing the largest funding gap. 

Expand the use of open educational resources to bring down the cost of books. Require OER for general education courses. Provide more reserve copies of high-dollar texts in the college library.

Provide equipment, broadband or aid to students so they can access online courses and open educational resources.

Rethink fee structures and reduce additional fees.

Begin or improve programs that provide emergency funding to students.

Collaborate with federal, state and local government agencies, nonprofits and businesses to help low-income students with living costs. Partnerships might cover food pantries, free campus meals, bus or ride-share passes, free furniture rentals, room and board for students experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, case managers to guide students if they apply for government assistance, free medical and mental health care or free hotspots.

Develop and require a financial literacy course or program for students and expand advising on finances, loans, and financial aid access and availability.

Provide more on-campus jobs and work-study programs so more students can work while enrolled full-time.

Be transparent with students and families about the true out-of-pocket cost of college and the value of obtaining a college degree that aligns with their skills and interests.

Implement a statewide marketing plan to bring students and families better information on the true costs and value over time.

Provide clearer guidance in high school to students and families about the costs of college and the value of different types of degrees and careers.

Provide clearer guidance and information to students and families about the benefits of FAFSA, including instructions for completing the application.

Collect and make available to students clear information about the types of support available from the state and college — including financial support, aid packages, and student success and completion support.

Improve comprehensive financial advising. Provide clear information about financial support for degree costs and living costs available that are to all enrolled students.

Improve career advising in high school and college, offering clear career pathways information.

Focus on ways to help students complete their degree or credential of value at a faster rate.

Improve and increase the use of dual enrollment and dual credit programs in high schools.

Accept more courses for credit that applies to a degree, including accelerated learning courses and transfer credits from previous schools or online courses.

Inform department leaders and students about course-sharing platforms and other initiatives to increase access to classes students need.

Accept competency-based learning assessments and demonstrations for credit.

Offer more high-quality online and asynchronous courses — as well as better access to broadband and equipment.

Reduce or eliminate time in remedial courses with strategies such as corequisite education.

Provide students better advising and mentoring on degree paths and on courses accepted toward their degrees.

Put students first when setting schedules, offering courses when students need the. Work with nearby universities or online course- sharing programs to offer more scheduling options.


Student Success Coaching
Help all students navigate, persist and graduate

Directly engage students in the development of comprehensive student success coaching models.

Survey students to learn why they are pursuing a postsecondary education and how best to satisfy their needs. 

Provide all new students, including transfers and returning adults, the information they need and opportunities to ask pertinent questions related to their college career, goals and success. Offer an orientation course that introduces them to the institution and the basics of navigating available resources.

Recruit students to serve as peer success coaches, giving students familiar faces to connect with.

Give students choices about the services they may need, with multiple modes for achieving success.

Provide spaces for students to build community and a sense of belonging.

Centralize student success services with a concierge office staffed with trained success coaches.

Provide a one-stop shop for triaging students’ needs for academic, social, physical and mental health, and basic transition support needs.

Provide training to all faculty and staff on the concierge office’s role and responsibilities in student success

Train campus staff and faculty on improved success coaching methods, current student needs and where students should go to access the services available.

Train students as peer coaches to ensure students have multiple modes of contact.

Train willing and skillful staff and faculty to guide the peer coaches.

Adapt, customize and modernize effective student success coaching models.

Develop consortia through which institutions can share promising practices and resources related to student success coaching.

Develop coaching teams dedicated to degree completion, career counseling, life coaching, mental health services, financial support, social and government services, childcare and academic support.

Modernize early alert and prevention strategies to help with persistence before academic probation, sending alerts to student success coaches and faculty.

Repurpose existing programs to add coaching capacity. The University of Kentucky, for example converted COVID-19 contact tracing services to student success coaching.


Workforce Preparedness
Help all graduates secure a well-paying job

Increase the focus on current and future workforce needs. Understand workforce needs and to align programs to better serve students.

Work together with state leaders to provide toolkits, professional development and training for deans, department chairs and faculty to analyze relevant data and align curricula to workforce needs.

Cultivate relationships between faculty and industry leaders. These partnerships can foster resource-sharing and design better programs to prepare students for the skills employers need.

Work with administrators and faculty to:

  • Create comprehensive, coherent strategic plans that commit to being mindful of workforce priorities.
  • Create work groups that regularly connect faculty with local or regional employers and the community to discuss workforce needs.
  • Engage students in discussions about program or curriculum changes.

Improve data governance and use of education and workforce data.

Encourage a campus culture that is more open to — and capable of — data-informed decisions about what programs to offer and how to deliver them.

Support faculty use of workforce data during review of academic programs and curricula in order to make adjustments, create programs or end programs that are no longer relevant.

Continue to build relevant career pathways for students, with support as they transition to college and then on to careers.

Develop dialogue and processes that lead to more accelerated and innovative learning options for students. These should include:

  • Supports for students at key transition points
  • More access to dual or concurrent credit, AP courses and IB programs
  • Prior learning assessments to give credit for skills and knowledge already obtained
  • Job- or industry-based micro-credentials (both credit and non-credit options)
  • Stackable micro-credentials, certificates and degree programs
  • Academic focus or meta major options so students select a focus area that enables a more efficient path to a degree

Help faculty embed, into all disciplines and curricula, career- or job-related education and preparation skills, including:

  • Life skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Lifelong learning capacity
  • Self-marketing skills

K-12 school leaders should also work to embed these skills throughout the middle and high school curricula.

Increase employer engagement on advisory boards, in curriculum review and in learning opportunities such as internship-to-job pipelines for students.