Priorities Report: State Higher Education System Offices


State Higher Education System Offices

Leaders and staff at state agencies for technical, community and four-year colleges 

Statewide postsecondary agencies will provide important leadership, support and accountability as colleges improve in these areas of student success.


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

Lower the student and family college cost burden for low- and middle-income populations.

Develop FAFSA completion initiatives that strongly encourage or require high school seniors to seek federal aid for college.  

Establish a state longitudinal database or improve workforce and education data in an existing one. Provide clear analysis to inform better higher education funding decisions.

Conduct a full financial aid audit to highlight where there may be financial aid gaps for students of various socioeconomic or demographic status.  

Publish an analysis of the true costs of college at state institutions to incentivize them to bring down total cost through efficiency.  

Work with legislators to provide state aid to cover the gap between the Pell award and the cost of public tuition and fees. Determine the amount, which some organizations previously estimated at $2,500.

Establish a process for approving new academic programs that identifies the lowest possible costs to students for each new or revised option.   

Incentivize colleges to consider using more open educational resources or low-cost texts.

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

Collect, analyze and disaggregate the true out-of-pocket cost of degrees for different student populations with varying resources and needs (such as low-income, traditional, adult learner, student-parent, part-time).  

Publish  the true out-of-pocket cost of degrees for student populations with varying resources and needs ─ part-time students, for example, or students who are parents.

Analyze and publish the value of different degrees, especially for high-demand professions.

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

Adopt statewide universal transfer and articulation policies, allowing acceptance of more courses for degree credit. 

  • Develop policy for greater flexibility for meeting general education course requirements, especially for transfer students.
  • Accredited institutions should be required to count as many credits as possible — for full or even partial credit — to reduce time to degree and cost.  

Support colleges to create better course schedules and sequences.  

Set state policy that limits degree requirements to 120 credit hours for baccalaureate degree programs or 60 credit hours for associate degree programs (unless more are required for degree program accreditation).  

Set state policy for accepting and applying credit toward degree for dual enrollment courses and for Advanced Placement courses with a test score of 3 or higher. 


Student Success Coaching
Help all students navigate, persist and graduate

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

Provide colleges and universities with incentives to develop centralized student success concierge offices.  

Develop with legislators state education policy that codifies the provision of student success coaching, including academic, social-emotional, basic transition support and mentorship services.

Replicate successful statewide models of student success coaching and wraparound services such as statewide educational opportunity programs. 

Adapt, customize and modernize effective student success coaching models.

Adapt and expand on successful coaching programs by providing models of the most successful practices for guidance.

Provide additional resources and partner with institutions to support adoption and implementation of these models. 


Workforce Preparedness
Help all graduates secure a well-paying job

Emphasize the importance of higher education leaders and faculty understanding workforce priorities and aligning education programs with current and future needs.

Develop a list of in-demand occupations and provide incentives for all postsecondary campuses that create or expand programs to address these top workforce needs.  

Develop student financial aid initiatives that support students who are pursuing majors connected to in-demand careers. 

Improve data governance and use of education and workforce data.

Provide campuses and policy leaders with a consistent source of data, analysis and data translation, including:  

  • a clear list of high-demand fields in the nation and the state  
  • state-level labor market supply and demand data  

Provide increased guidance and capacity to universities to collect regional and local workforce supply and demand data.  

Publicly share information about the types of programs, certificates and degrees available across all colleges in the state to help reduce under- and oversaturation in certain disciplines or industries.  

Create shared definitions and vocabulary among education, workforce development and economic development about objectives and measures of performance. 

Eliminate state policy and process barriers to academic program changes.

Identify any policy and process barriers that may deter institutions from updating academic program offerings to better align with current workforce needs.  

Approve or deny program changes or approvals promptly, within 60 days if possible.  

Provide colleges with updated approval processes and clear program development guidance that:  

  • Uses workforce supply and demand data to inform decisions that lead to improved job-based curricula that provide students with career skills to succeed in the field 
  • Empowers and incentivizes faculty to use workforce supply and demand data to make regular adjustments to curricula to keep up with industry needs 
  • Incentivizes the use of current and emerging technologies and software that employers use
  • Prevents oversaturation of programs in any one industry or discipline  
  • Allows for ending programs that are no longer relevant or needed 

Support and encourage college administrators and faculty to streamline their programmatic approval processes, which are often longer than state approval processes. 

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

Examine how the education system and the workforce system interact, identifying barriers to better communication and engagement. 

Remove any state rules or regulations preventing the use of accelerated learning options, prior learning assessments, stackable credentials or meta majors. Provide clear guidance on these strategies to colleges and universities.