Published on 2017/09/25
The EvoLLLution | Improving Attainment and Reducing Barriers: Announcing the Talent Hubs
The Talent Hubs project is creating the impetus for community, institutional, civic and private-sector leaders to collaborate and create mechanisms to improve post-secondary access and persistence, ultimately helping to close the attainment gap and progressing toward the 60-percent attainment target.

Achieving the attainment goal of 60 percent by 2025 is an immense challenge that requires great efforts to reduce the obstacles currently standing in the way of postsecondary access and persistence for non-traditional demographics. To engage in this work, the Lumina Foundation today designated 17 cities as Talent Hubs, communities that are currently focused on attracting, retaining and cultivating talent among diverse audiences, and have aspirations to expand these efforts. With the grant funding, provided in partnership between Lumina and the Kresge Foundation, these Talent Hubs will be able to better support local efforts to improve education access and attainment, especially among currently under-represented populations. In this interview, Haley Glover and Dakota Pawlicki discuss the origins of the Talent Hub project and share their thoughts on the impact they hope these communities will have over the short and long term.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): How did you come up with the Talent Hub city concept?

Haley Glover and Dakota Pawlicki (HG/DP): The original idea, and the name, comes from Lumina Foundation’s President and CEO Jamie Merisotis. Merisotis wrote a book in 2015 called America Needs Talent that advanced key national strategies to significantly improve the nation’s talent resources. One chapter, titled “Talent Hubs,” described the concept of communities, postsecondary institutions, employers, and civic leaders working to do more together than they could separately, with the goal of increasing talent. That is where the name and vision were born.

Lumina also has a solid history of community-based work. In 2013, the Foundation launched Community Partnerships for Attainment, which was a 75-community network devoted to increasing postsecondary attainment. The Talent Hubs work represents the next generation of that effort.

The Talent Hub designation represents an exemplary level of community-based partnership for postsecondary attainment. Leveraging the lessons learned through our investment in the Community Partnership for Attainment initiative, it became evident that a designation built on rigorous standards was required to serve as “North Star” to both recognize effective partnerships and provide an aspirational goal for communities. We also know that 99 percent of new, good jobs created during the recovery from the Great Recession have gone to those holding a postsecondary credential. Communities across the United States are working tirelessly to address their local talent needs, ensure economic prosperity for their communities, and provide high-quality education options for their citizens. This designation does that and more.

Evo: What are the major roadblocks that prevent underserved, low-income and under-represented populations from succeeding in education beyond high school?

HG/DP: There are significant challenges for today’s students, especially students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and for adult learners. These challenges range from logistical roadblocks, where students may have difficulty getting to campus on time when a bus route changes, to financial roadblocks, as the cost of college has far outpaced growth in income. Academic roadblocks loom as well—for instance, when students are required to take semesters of developmental courses. And of course, social roadblocks also exist for students who feel they somehow don’t belong in higher education.

Further, there are institutional roadblocks; campus policies and practices don’t always fit students’ best interests. Consider the issue of developmental education. Many students, particularly those attending community colleges, are placed in developmental courses. These courses can drain financial aid resources but result in no college credit. Research shows that nine out of ten students who are required to take two semesters of developmental coursework never complete a credential. In fact, few of them persist long enough to complete even one credit-bearing course. While it may be easy to blame the student, this is a clear institutional roadblock. Many innovative campuses have found new, more effective ways to provide academic support. Co-requisite remediation—in which students enroll in a credit-bearing, college-level course while receiving supplemental tutoring and advising—can transform student outcomes. So-called “multiple-measures” policies, which require institutions to use more than just one high-stakes exam to place students into their initial courses, can help many more students avoid being trapped in developmental education.

The bottom line is that significant innovations and reforms are underway. More institutions need to:

  1. Better understand the needs of underserved students and
  2. Change in ways that meet those needs.

When institutions work closely with their community partners, student needs can be met more quickly and comprehensively.

Every Talent Hub community is focusing on improving postsecondary policies and practices in ways that boost success rates among its priority populations. That type of focus is vital if the nation is to meet its growing need for talent—a need that drives our effort to reach an ambitious national goal for postsecondary attainment. By 2025, we want 60 percent of Americans to hold a degree, certificate, or other high-quality credential beyond high school.

To reach that goal, we simply must do more to better serve today’s students—who are very different from those of yesterday. To reach the 60-percent goal by 2025, 6.1 million returning adult students, and 5.5 million Americans with no recognized postsecondary education must earn their first credential. For that to happen, the postsecondary ecosystem must adjust its policies and practices to meet the needs of these working adults with families. Learning, whether it happens on the job or in another out-of-school environment, needs to be recognized to support our 21st-century learners. Talent Hubs are communities across the nation that are leading the effort to change their local postsecondary ecosystem so that it meets the needs of their learners.

Evo: How do you hope the Talent Hub funding will help students from these demographics overcome—or at least minimize the impact of—these roadblocks?

HG/DP: Lumina’s grant funding, and more importantly, the work of the community partnerships themselves, has been designed to sweep some of these roadblocks out of the way. These Talent Hubs are working to reform their postsecondary ecosystems, ensuring that students can enroll in programs and earn credentials. They are leveraging and implementing best practices, while doing innovative work that can influence others.

Grant funding will be used to support local attainment efforts, and is flexible, allowing community leaders to meet their specific needs. Beyond funding, Talent Hubs will receive strategic and technical support from national leaders, leveraging our nation’s best learning on postsecondary success. Finally, each Talent Hub will participate in a community of practice, creating networks of partnerships focused on specific learner populations to share lessons learned, work collaboratively through challenges, and facilitate a deeper connection among members of their professional network.

Evo: With $350,000 for each of the 17 Talent Hubs being distributed over 3.5 years, how will Lumina Foundation ensure the funds are being leveraged effectively over the course of the funding period?

HG/DP: Talent Hubs have set ambitious goals and outcomes for their learner populations, and we expect that each of the Hubs will meet its credential attainment goals. We’ll monitor and learn from each Talent Hub to understand where the work gains traction. Lumina will build and strengthen our network of community-based partnerships for postsecondary attainment to create a collaborative environment where successes can be quickly elevated and challenges can be quickly mitigated.

Evo: What are you hoping the Talent Hubs will achieve over the short term and long term?

HG/DP: In the short term, Talent Hubs will implement the policy and practice changes that can help increase credential completion and attainment. They will align community, institutional, civic and private-sector resources to better serve students. Most importantly, they’ll reduce attainment gaps for students of color. They will set a new, higher trajectory for their future.

Each Hub recognizes that its talent needs can’t wait, and each has taken ownership of the effort to build the community’s future.

In the long term, we expect Talent Hubs to be the areas of the country with the fastest-growing attainment, and the smallest attainment gaps for equity populations. They will serve as the exemplars for other communities, and blaze a path for many others to follow.

To learn more about the Talent Hubs, please click here.

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Key Takeaways

  • Though there is broad recognition of the importance of reaching the 60-percent attainment target, logistical, financial, academic, social and institutional roadblocks still stand in the way of many learners earning their credential.
  • The selected Talent Hub communities are driving innovation in forging pathways and support mechanisms to help more students persist through their postsecondary education to earn a valuable credential, be it a degree, a certificate or a certification.
  • The Hubs will align community, institutional, civic and private-sector resources to improve attainment over the short term, and will serve as models for closing the attainment gap in the rest of the country over the long term.
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