In this region, the fastest growing, highest paying occupations require an associate degree or higher. Sooner or later in an adult’s career, the absence of an advanced degree or certificate will prove to limit both income and advancement.
Where We Stand
Enrollment in higher education following high school places students on track for stable careers and self-sufficient wages. Completion of a higher education credential increases lifetime earning potential. In addition to higher income and reduced likelihood of poverty, completion of postsecondary education has also been linked to better health and increased civic participation.
What Needs to Happen
Pathways in high school should encourage those who are ready to go to college to do so. Future job growth in our region increasingly requires a two-year or four-year degree or certificate, and completion rates (34%) are insufficient to meet that need.
School districts and their high school guidance teams can and should know which students are destined for college, beginning with seeing to it that EVERY high school senior completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA provides grants, loans and work-study funds to students and is a pivotal part in many students’ decision to attend college.
In our region, nearly 250,000 adults with some or no college are likely, at some point, to wish they had a degree or certificate. Employers and colleges working together can do more to encourage these adults to return and persist in obtaining their degree or certificate.
Data associated with individuals who are unemployed and under-employed suggest strongly that remedial reading and math programs as well as support for overcoming obstacles (e.g. transportation, student debt and work schedules) are required for adults to enter or return to college. Yet, efforts to align our community in support of adult learners have, to date, been largely unsuccessful.
What We’re Doing
In 2016, TCCC’s FAFSA Pilot Project, financed by The InterTech Group, selected five local high schools with the lowest FAFSA completion rates and highest poverty rates for assistance. After participating in the pilot, the combined average of the schools increased by 8 percentage points. TCCC is expanding this pilot project in 2018.
The provosts of nine public and private colleges and universities meet regularly with TCCC as the Postsecondary Education Consortium (PSEC). They are focused on increasing the number of individuals with degrees or certificates in the Lowcountry. PSEC includes Charleston Southern University, The Citadel, Claflin University, Clemson University, the College of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, Trident Technical College, and the University of South Carolina. The primary goals for PSEC are:
Improve the alignment of current degree programs with projected workforce requirements.
Encourage degree completion by adults who have completed some college work but have yet to complete a degree.
Close the gap in enrollment and completion rates between students groups.
A joint initiative of PSEC and the High School Graduation Network, the Math Pathways Project Team (MPPT) is a group of educators and senior administrators from five universities and four public school districts serving Lowcountry students. The team is focused on aligning the preparation of high school graduates with the expectations of postsecondary institutions.