7 Key Steps Proven to Enhance Degree Completion through One-Stop Career Centers

There is a strong case that One-Stop Career Centers can play a critical role in degree completion efforts. Enhancing and increasing these efforts takes only 7 steps:


Step 1: Find Likely Completers

The first step is to identify clients who have already completed some college credits but did not finish their degree. Know what qualifies in your center as a near-completer: 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:

  • Pay attention to clients’ educational details during the intake process of your center (including walk-ins)
    • 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 orientation sessions for outreach to potential candidates
    • Think about creating a script or adding questions to your workforce center’s client intake process which suggests college completion as an option:
      • “I see you have some college but no degree, are you interested in returning to college?”  
      • “Did you know that we can potentially help you return to school and finish your degree?
      • “Would you like to talk to someone more about this?"
      • This part in 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
  • Search your workforce center rolls for past clients whose demographic information reveals they have a college education history
  • Link with UI compensation program through the UI queue, PREP, 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 schools and maintain regular contact
  • Work with schools’ lists of post-secondary non-graduates—your local colleges can provide lists of students 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 at your workforce center. (e.g. Accuplacer)
  • Evaluate clients’ college interest, focus & self-discipline in 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)


Step 3: Engage in Targeted Career Advising and Counseling

After assessing those most likely to complete a degree:
  • Work with client to think about their degree interest and career prospects
    • How many credits has your client 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 2 year to a 4 year 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 Demand Occupation list with your client and look at potential degree matches (Be creative!)
  • Think about your client and Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)
  • Fit Individual Employment Plan (IEP) with degree needs of local employers
  • Investigate available Educational Training Provider List (ETPL) options
  • Consider revising your counselors’ script to understand more about your clients’ past education:
    • “I see 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? “
    • “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 college partner(s)
    • Talk to your college about current programs for degree completion,
    • Explore those funding alternatives colleges deal with regularly, e.g. Pell, etc. 


Step 4: Understand and Use Creative Financing Strategies

Once you've engaged clients in considering college completion, helping them find a way to fund their education is an important next step. 
  • Get informed about available funding streams:
    • Know available college scholarships options/have a college representative to refer your client to
    • Know available community scholarships (they are usually not institution-specific)
    • Know how to combine funding if necessary
    • Learn about funding options, such as:
      • Workforce Investment Act
      • Wagner-Peyser Act
      • Trade Adjustment Act
      • Veteran’s Employment & Training 
      • Pell Grant, PHEAA Grant Programs
      • DOL Discretionary Grants (H1B Grants, ex offenders, NEG, etc.)
      • Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
      • Adult Education and Family Literacy Act 
      • Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants
      • TANF
      • Social Service Block Grants
      • Community Service Block Grants 
      • Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credit 
      • SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition & Assistance Program  
  • Hold brown bags sessions explaining financial resources beyond the traditional workforce centers resources, i.e., WIA, TAA, Wagner-Peyser and Pell
  • Establish a “financial information center” in partnership with your local colleges in your workforce center
  • Work with college partners to help clients locate funding beyond typical workforce investment funds

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Step 5: Track Enrollees

Before clients enroll in college, it is imperative that you first identify how you will track their educational progress so you can help ensure their success.
  • Make sure your local area and state have a way to track college completers in your data system
  • Your data system may combine vocational training and college – check and make 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

One-Stop Career Centers can provide an extra layer of support for clients who are working towards finishing their degree. For example: 
  • Check in frequently with 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 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 the 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, and these efforts can complement existing placement efforts, Economic Development Team efforts, and employers' efforts. 
Adult college completion can complement your placement efforts:
  • Engage your business services team in the day to day world of your adult college completion efforts; be sure they understand the benefits it affords them as they work with economic development and education stakeholders
  • Use this new population of degree-in-hand clients to fill those jobs your employers seek! 
  • Never lose sight of job placement as the ultimate carrot for clients beyond the degree
Adult college completion can complement your Economic Development Team:
  • Use your business services team to assess economic development strategies for targeted sectors/demand generators against top 25 occupations and their education requirements
  • Become knowledgeable of your local economic development team’s top 10 businesses targeted for retention and growth contacts
  • Become aware of the educational state of your 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 complement employers in your community:
  • Use business services team to assess employers’ willingness to use “tuition assistance” for furthering/completing incumbent workers’ education
  • Check with employers as to their willingness to hire someone who is in the process of completing their degree work
  • Work directly with Chambers of Commerce as intermediaries to promote college completion in their communities
  • Address the need for college completion in your sector partnerships and determine what levels of education and types of degrees they seek

Degree:A degree is a combination of technical skills with general education, and usually includes an additional element of social sciences education (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Masters’, and Ph.D.). 

Reverse Transfer:  When a student has completed more than 60 qualifying credit hours toward a Bachelor’s Degree, they may have the option to apply those credits toward an Associate’s Degree instead.  This creates a situation where a student who may not qualify to complete their Bachelor’s Degree (because they need too many credits, for instance) may qualify to receive their Associate’s Degree instead.  Schools differ regarding reverse transfer; consultation with a Higher Education representative is suggested. 

Some College: In order to qualify for funding, a client must have less than 2 years of college left to complete. This usually equates to 30 credit hours or less to completion.  Some LWIAs specify 15 or less credit hours to completion.

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