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The Civitas Learning National Advisory Board is comprised of researchers, association leaders, and executives whose expertise has influenced higher education policy and institutional practice across the United States and around the world, and has guided our work from day one. With the NAB Conversation Series, we are thrilled to give our community an opportunity to learn from these luminaries as we continue our work together to help more, and more diverse students learn well and finish strong. We continue the series with a conversation Dr. Davis Jenkins, Senior Research Associate, Community College Research Center. He notes that the changing labor market requirements and rising costs of college are forcing institutions to rethink what a “program” means, and how to deliver on its value proposition: that is, a living wage job with opportunities for further education, or ability to transfer with junior standing in a major.The key is engaging students from day one. For example, by being thoughtful about how you offer orientation, getting students on degree paths early, and ensuring they have full program plans by the end of their first term that reflect clear goals and an optimal time to degree. The idea is that intentional program design can help students set expectations, understand the choices they’re making, and the implications of those choices for today and tomorrow. The end result? Greater accountability for students and institutions. A student and their college or university work together to make sure they stay “on path,” not on an arbitrary one-size-fits-all time table. Improving time to degree in these cases can mean ensuring part-time students who are ready take one-more course per term, and full-time students who need it, take the time to take fewer credits when work/life balance demands it. Moreover, institutions schedule and offer courses because they are on students’ plans and not because those are the courses they have offered for decades. Jenkins also responds to questions about transfer students. What can colleges and universities do to ensure they are supported and effective in their educational pursuits? He describes what institutions must do as a supply chain — with myriad opportunities to optimize students’ educational journeys through the institution, and opportunities to create a healthy enrollment pipeline for colleges and universities.
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