Lessons on Community College Transformative Change

During the tenure of the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program has made an unprecedented investment—nearly $2 billion—in community colleges. Designed to transform community colleges in order to help put Americans back to work and improve the U.S. economy, TAACCCT resources are directed at a diversity of low skill and low income adults.  Through a variety of methods, TAACCCT supports individual and consortia of community colleges to test, implement and scale strategies that accelerate programs of study, industry-recognized stackable credentials, and family living-wage employment.

In July 2013, the White House contacted the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to learn about the Transformative Change Initiative (TCI). TCI is a new project led by OCCRL and The Collaboratory, a consulting firm that focuses on workforce development. While TCI is still relatively young, the project already involves a national network of 19 Round One and Round Two TAACCCT consortia with over 230 community colleges. OCCRL’s leadership role in TCI includes documenting how TAACCCT consortia are implementing and scaling innovations designed to improve outcomes for diverse learners, including students historically underserved by higher education, unemployed and underemployed workers, veterans, and other student populations who require postsecondary training to secure family living-wage jobs.

The Office of Community College Research and Leadership in the College of Education at Illinois, established in 1989, uses research and evaluation methods to improve policies and programs aimed at enhancing community college education and the transition to college for diverse learners in Illinois and the United States. The OCCRL and The Collaboratory, LLC, formed the TCI Network with generous support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, and the Joyce Foundation. TCI’s goal is to document, disseminate, and support the scaling of evidence-based strategies that improve community college student success in collegiate learning and completion, and in the labor market.

The release of a new OCCRL report presents descriptions of eight Round One TAACCCT consortia that were selected to be part of the TCI Network.  The report, “Lessons from TAACCCT Round One Consortia: The Community College Transformative Change Initiative,” presents strategies as well as plans for scaling the consortia’s innovations, including developmental education reform, credit for prior learning, online education and Open Educational Resources, competency-based curriculum, and intensive student support strategies.

Looking to the future, we will continue to work with the 8 Round One and 11 Round Two TAACCCT consortia that were selected for the TCI Network, and we will invite additional consortia to join the 230 community colleges in 24 states that are engaged in the TCI Network. The report and additional resources are available at OCCRL’s TCI website. For more information, please contact Debra Bragg at 217-244-8974 or dbragg@illinois.edu or Mindy Feldbaum at 301-580-9166 or mfeldbaum@thecollaboratoryllc.com.
 

Debra Bragg is director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership and professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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