With Massachusetts facing projected shortages of high-skilled college graduates, the state's community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses plan to caucus at a working conference February 27th to share proven strategies for boosting college completion rates.
The invitation-only conference marks the first time that the chief academic officers from every public campus in the Commonwealth will meet to develop a shared approach to the college completion agenda. Two hundred and fifty campus delegates will meet to advance the "Big Three" college completion goals outlined in the 2014 Vision Project report, Degrees of Urgency: Why Massachusetts Needs More College Graduates Now. The conference will also feature a keynote from Jim Peyser at his first major higher education convening since being appointed Secretary of Education.
“Through this gathering, we have a rare opportunity to collectively address the important need for the Commonwealth to produce more educated and prepared citizens in the knowledge-based economy,” said Carlos E. Santiago, DHE’s Senior Deputy Commissioner for Academic Affairs. “We anticipate that the strategies that emerge from the conference will be scalable across Massachusetts’ public campuses and will increase the numbers of students successfully traversing higher education while closing achievement gaps. To address this from a system-wide perspective is truly unique for Massachusetts.”
Conference planners have identified 15 strategies underway on Massachusetts public campuses to achieve the “Big Three” goals of 1) boosting college completion rates; 2) closing achievement gaps; and 3) attracting, retaining and graduating more students from underserved populations. Through a series of working sessions, campus attendees will learn from colleagues around the system about successful approaches to implementing each of the 15 strategies. In the afternoon each campus will meet as a team to build on the knowledge gained in the morning and develop a plan of action to further advance the strategies at their institution, and to put forth recommendations on how best to accomplish these goals as a system. These will be shared in a final plenary session with Commissioner Richard M. Freeland.
“My hope for the conference is that leaders from every public campus will take away an enhanced sense of steps they can and will take to improve outcomes with respect to each of the Big Three goals,” said Commissioner Freeland. “By taking time to learn from each other in this way, we will not only be serving our students but demonstrating to the Administration and Legislature our seriousness of purpose with respect to meeting the Commonwealth’s need for a highly educated workforce.”
Conference registration is at capacity and running a waiting list. For those unable to attend, findings and next steps from the conference will be made available on the Vision Project website.