A focus on college- and career-readiness

The Education Taskforce has chosen to focus on college- and career readiness in an effort to develop a pool of talent that is sufficient to meet the region’s needs. While there is no shortage of challenges, IMPACT 20/20’s education taskforce has designed an approach that promises to provide a solution.

The Challenges

There is a growing need for post-secondary education - 70% of Minnesota jobs will require some post-secondary education by 2018. (Carnevale, A.P., 2010) Minnesota is facing a growing skills gap due to increasing educational demand among employers, retirement of many baby boomers, and projected declines in education levels. Currently, 40% of working-age adults have a post-secondary degree, but by 2018, 70% of Minnesota jobs will require some education beyond high school, the highest projected percentage in all fifty states, much higher than the national average of 63%, and second only to the District of Columbia.

Our region has a high percentage of first-generation college students that need more information about post-secondary options. The percentage of first-generation students is as high as 40% for some of the region’s post-secondary institutions. The road to college is difficult to navigate for anyone, but even more so for first-generation college students and their families. Young people need to know what electives they should be taking, how to prepare for ACT testing, which college will be the best fit, and how they can secure financial aid.

The level of accountability on colleges and universities to recruit, retain, and graduate more post-secondary students is continuing to increase. Graduation rates are among the most-watched metrics at Minnesota colleges and universities. Increasingly, based on these numbers, the Legislature allots funding; governing boards evaluate administrators; rating services rank institutions, and parents and students decide where to enroll. The six-year graduation rate for all of Minnesota in 2010 was 56.4%. In northwest Minnesota, the percentages are lower – about 46%. There are many contributing factors, but simply stated, the region must do a better job of retaining and graduating post-secondary school students.

The Solution

Over the course of the last few years, the IMPACT 20/20 Education Taskforce has piloted projects in several northwest Minnesota communities, seeking to accomplish two goals: (1) to improve four-year on-time graduation rates in the region’s high schools; and (2) to increase the number of college students obtaining two- and four-year degrees from local institutions. Through implementation of these pilot projects, the taskforce has established best practices, and seen several leading indicators that demonstrate the promise of achieving their goals.

IMPACT 20/20 has learned that there are several elements needed for success:
  • Committed leadership within the school and the community.
  • Dedicated human resources that make college- and career-readiness a number one priority.
  • Secondary schools willing to put some of their own skin in the game.

    College Collaborative

    Beginning with the 2015-2016 academic year, IMPACT 20/20 is launching a new initiative - focusing on college- and career-readiness, delivered by the IMPACT 20/20 College Collaborative, a partnership with the region's institutions of higher education.

    Bemidji State University, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Technical College, and University of Minnesota Crookston are piloting the effort with six school districts this year. Read more...