Seven Key Steps Useful for Enhancing Degree Completion through Workforce Centers

Rutgers has made a strong case arguing that workforce centers can play a critical role in degree completion efforts. Enhancing and increasing these efforts takes only seven steps:


Step 1: Find Likely Completers

The first step is to identify clients who have already completed some college credits but who did not finish their degree. Know precisely what the requirements are to qualify in your center as a near-completer: Is it 30 credits from finishing? 15 credits? Then, consider your office’s client flow policy: At what points in the client flow process could you gather information about a clients’ past education history? At what points in the client flow process could someone talk to the client about considering college completion as a training option? For example:

This part of the process could also be a great place to move the person straight to intensive services to speak with a counselor who could better assess client readiness and make initial contact with a post-secondary institution.

  • Pay attention to the educational details of clients (including walk-ins) during the intake process of your center.
    • Adjust intake forms to capture a clients’ past college education history -- make sure college education is separate from vocational and technical schooling.
    • Adjust employability forms to reflect college completion as a training option.
    • Use client orientation sessions for outreach to potential candidates, i.e., likely college completers.
    • Think about creating a script that includes questions which suggest college completion as an option, to add to your workforce center’s client intake process:
      • I see that you have some college but no degree; are you interested in returning to college?”
      • Did you know that we may be able to help you return to school and finish your degree?”
      • Would you like to talk to someone about this?"
    • Search your workforce center rolls for past clients whose demographic information reveals that they have a college education history.
    • Link with your Unemployment Insurance compensation program through the UI queue and Reemployment Assistance programs.
    • Think about college completion as an option for dislocated workers
    • Establish a relationship with someone on the “for-credit” side in post-secondary schools and maintain regular contact.
    • Work with colleges’ lists of post-secondary non-graduates.  Your local colleges can provide lists of adult learners who did not complete college. 


Step 2: Do a Targeted Assessment of Likely Completers

The next step is to assess these likely completers. Pick your candidates skillfully:

  • Work with your local educational institutions to assess college readiness.
  • Talk to your local colleges about offering college entrance exams or exam prep (such as Accuplacer) at your workforce center.
  • Evaluate clients’ college interest, focus and self-discipline for college study
  • Listen for common barriers to completing a degree:
    • Previous bad educational experiences
    • Learning disabilities
    • Time constraints forced by work and family demands
    • Transportation difficulties
    • Childcare limitations
    • But, don’t necessarily rule out clients with barriers; instead, make use of supportive services (TANF, childcare support services, and/or alternative learning programs, e.g. quality online studies) and connect clients to your contact in higher education who may also be able to help address these issues.


Step 3: Be Strategic in Your Career Advising and Counseling


After assessing those most likely to complete a degree:

  • Work with clients to think strategically about their degree interest and career prospects.
    • How many credits has your client already earned?
    • Does your client have credits from multiple schools?
    • Given your clients’ situation, does a credit/degree audit make sense?
    • Did your client transfer from a two-year to a four-year institution without getting a degree?
    • Might your client have a degree and not know it?
    • Is your client eligible for a reverse transfer?
  • Explore your office’s high demand occupation list with your client and look at potential degree matches (be creative!).
  • Think aboutyour client’s work background and prior learning assessment (PLA) opportunities. Contact your local college to find out more about PLAs and how your client(s) may qualify.
  • Match your client’s Individual Employment Plan (IEP) with the degree needs of local employers.
  • Investigate options available on your area’s Educational Training Provider List (ETPL).
  • Consider revising whatever script your counselors currently use to better understand about your clients’ past education:
    • I see that you have taken some college classes in the past.”
    • “Are you interested in returning to school and completing your degree?”
    • “Do you know how many credits you had left to complete your degree?”
    • “If not, do you know how many credits you took or how many quarters/semesters you were in school?”
    • “Where did you go to school?” (“Did you attend multiple schools?”)
    • “What was your degree going to be?"
  • Take the time to understand college completion and college credit better yourself.
    • Make a connection with a representative on the “for-credit” side of your workforce center’s current or past college partner(s).
    • Talk to your college about current programs for degree completion.
    • Explore the funding alternatives that colleges deal with regularly, such as Pell, etc. 


Step 4: Understand and Use Creative Financing Strategies


Once you've encouraged clients to consider finishing college, helping them find a way to fund their education without incurring debt is an important next step.  

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Step 5: Track Enrollees


Collecting good data on the college completion process is important. Before clients enroll in college, it is imperative that you first identify how you will track their educational progress so that you can help ensure their success.

  • Make sure your local area and state have a way to track college completers in your state or local data system.
  • Your data system may combine vocational training and college – check and make the necessary changes. A client with vocational or technical schooling cannot apply that kind of education to college credit. Therefore, it’s important to find out if a client has past college education, not vocational/technical schooling.


Step 6: Help Clients Finish Their Degrees


Workforce centers can provide an extra layer of support for clients who are working towards finishing their degree. For example, workforce center counselors can:

  • check in frequently with a client, or have your client check in with you on a schedule.
  • engage in “concierge counseling.”
  • work closely with counselors at educational institutions.
  • sponsor events/support meetings for your clients who are completing college.
  • create a mentor group of graduates who help coach new candidates to stay the course and finish their degree.
  • maintain a relationship with post-secondary education registrars and celebrate graduates’ accomplishments. 


Step 7: Help Degree Holders Find Jobs


The final step is to help degree holders find jobs. These efforts can complement existing placement efforts, Economic Development Team efforts, and employers' efforts.

Adult college completion can complement your placement efforts by:

  • engaging your business services team in the day-to-day world of your adult college completion efforts; making sure that team members understand the benefits these efforts. afford them as they work with economic development and education stakeholders
  • using this new population of degree-in-hand clients to fill those jobs your employers seek!
  • never losing sight of job placement as the ultimate carrot for clients beyond the degree.

Adult college completion can complement your state or local economic development team’s efforts:

  • Use your business services team to assess economic development strategies for targeted sectors/demand generators against the top 25 occupations and their educational requirements.
  • Become knowledgeable about your local economic development team’s top 10 businesses targeted for retention and growth contacts.
  • Become aware of the educational level of your state and especially your local workforce.
  • Promote adult college completion in meetings with economic development partnerships and councils.
  • Where incumbent worker training grants are available, align business needs with college completers to fill/backfill positions.

Adult college completion can respond to employers’ needs in your community by:

  • addressing the need for college completion in your sector partnerships and determining what levels of education and types of degrees they seek.
  • using a business services team to assess employers’ willingness to offer tuition assistance to incumbent workers who further and/or complete their education.
  • checking with employers as to their willingness to hire someone who is in the process of completing his or her degree work.
  • working directly with Chambers of Commerce as intermediaries to promote college completion in their communities.

More Pages:

Home Page | Degree Completion? Its Importance for Workforce Centers

Seven Steps to Enhance ACC | Working with Adult Learners | Strengthening Ties with Higher Ed

Lessons Learned | Resources for Workforce Centers | Adult College Completion Glossary | FAQs