Arkansas higher education leaders will join representatives from seven other states in a strategically-focused exchange of information at the Complete College America (CCA) Fall Academy. Work begins this Friday with a legislative sub-committee meeting in Bentonville with national representatives from the CCA program, according to a press release issued this morning by the Arkansas Department of Education.
“Arkansas has a remarkable opportunity to work together with the country’s foremost experts on making college degree completion a priority for students,” said Dr. Jim Purcell, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. “We’ll be able to interact with leaders from other states in similar situations, and learn from their case studies of successes and failures in graduating students.”
A three-day work session in October will provide intensive technical assistance and support for states that have demonstrated a significant commitment to the establishment, adoption and implementation of robust college completion plans.
“Only 26 percent of Arkansans ages 24 to 35 have a college degree,” Purcell continued. “While we’ve been successful in improving the college-going rate, we hope to significantly impact our number of degree holders in the next decade.”
Established in 2009, Complete College America is the only national nonprofit organization focused solely on working to dramatically increase the number of young adults with a college degree or credential. Arkansas is a part the Complete College America Alliance of States (CCAAS), which is committed to significantly increasing the number of students successfully completing college and closing attainment gaps for traditionally underserved populations.
To become a part of CCAAS, governmental leadership in Arkansas - in partnership with its colleges and universities - pledged to make college completion a top priority and committed to the following three actions:
1. Establish annual state and campus-specific degree and credential completion goals through 2020;
2. Develop and implement aggressive state and campus-level action plans for meeting the state’s college completion goals; and
3. Collect and publicly report common measures of progress toward completion goals and close attainment gaps.
As a part of the CCAAS, Arkansas will receive over the course of the academic year more in-depth technical support in improving college success, including assistance in building consensus for reform, developing policy action plans, guidance on applying for and effectively using federal funding to produce more degrees, and annual networking opportunities.
“Our state’s economic future depends on increasing the number of citizens with college degrees,” said Governor Mike Beebe. “The better educated our workforce is, the better equipped we will be to recruit high-tech, knowledge-based jobs.”
Under Beebe’s leadership, Arkansas has implemented policies to raise awareness and ease applications for scholarships, cut costs for students, provide for seamless transfer of credits, demand accountability in higher education spending, and tie state funding to completed courses, not just enrollment.
Five national foundations are providing multi-year support and an initial $12 million to Complete College America, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education.
The ADHE is responsible for carrying out the policy directives of the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB), approving and reviewing college and university academic programs and developing funding recommendations for the state’s 11 public universities and 22 public two-year colleges as well as several other post-secondary entities. In addition, the agency is responsible for distributing approximately $140 million annually from state revenues and lottery funds intended to ease the financial burden of students seeking an education beyond high school.