ATLANTA — Millions of adults across the nation who started college degrees but did not complete them will have easy online access to a wealth of resources on finishing their degrees through a new Southern Regional Education Board Web portal next year, thanks to a four-year, $800,000 grant announced today from Lumina Foundation for Education.
SREB’s Web portal — to be called TheAdultLearner.org — will be a clearinghouse of degree-completion programs from regionally accredited postsecondary institutions, supported by services and information that adults can use in considering a return to college. It will provide an easy, single-entry point for adults to learn more about finishing their studies and to help them make decisions about financial aid, courses and programs, and more.
The portal will begin as a pilot program in 2011, offering degree-completion programs based in the 16 SREB states. Then it will begin offering such programs from institutions across the nation in 2012. Extensive marketing and recruitment campaigns will support the project.
"States need to expand substantially the numbers of people earning college degrees and career certificates each year, and this Web-based project will help many adults find help toward finishing college and advancing their careers," said Bruce Chaloux, the director of Student Access Programs and Services for SREB and a national expert on adult learning and online education. Chaloux manages SREB’s Electronic Campus (www.electroniccampus.org) which provides general access and information to more than 30,000 online courses and 1,000 degree programs from many different institutions.
The SREB project is part of Lumina’s $14.8 million investment in improving learning for adults, announced today. It complements SREB’s broader efforts to increase awareness of the need for more college and career-program graduates in the region and nation. Lumina Foundation for Education is an Indianapolis-based private foundation dedicated to expanding access to and success in education beyond high school.
A major new SREB report and set of recommendations released Tuesday calls for each state to work toward the goal of having 60 percent of working-age adults earning some type of high-quality credential by the year 2025 — a goal first set by Lumina. SREB states currently have between 26 and 44 percent of adults ages 25 to 64 with a two- or four-year college degree because data is incomplete on the percentage of adults who hold career/technical certificates, which is one of many issues states need to address. No Time to Waste: Policy Recommendations for Improving College Completion, available at www.sreb.org, challenges states to become national leaders in increasing college completion.
"Bringing adults back to college to finish degrees and certificates is a keystone in states’ efforts to help more people boost their levels of education and training, and this new Web site and the tools it offers will provide an important service to the people of our region and across the nation," SREB President Dave Spence said.
Lumina estimates that some 37 million Americans have earned some college credits in their effort toward a degree or credential, but for a variety of reasons have not completed higher education. While the U.S. job market once eagerly found places for these workers, the "Great Recession" has destroyed that security and future employment needs will require even more degreed employees.
"There is growing evidence that adults who have gone to college but not received a degree are looking for a second chance but need the right kind of information and motivation to help them succeed," says Lumina President/CEO Jamie Merisotis. "This vital work aligns directly with our goal to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Given demographic trends and attainment rates among young adults, it is highly unlikely that the nation can meet its growing need for college-educated workers only by focusing on recent high school graduates."
The Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB, based in Atlanta, was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help leaders in education and government work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB has 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. More information is available online at www.sreb.org.