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From Opening Doors to Ushering In: Strategic Enrollment Management for Adult Learners 

ATD is developing research-based tools to help colleges craft equity-minded strategic enrollment management plans focused on learners aged 23+.

Overview 

Through this eight-month project, ATD is consulting with five colleges from our Network to guide each institution in developing a strategic enrollment management (SEM) plan — or to craft a tailored version to complement an already existing recent SEM plan — focused on 1–3 underserved adult populations in their community. The eight-month planning process engages the colleges in examining institutional, community, and workforce data to identify the priority populations and their goals and challenges in accessing postsecondary access. Our expert consultants aim to cultivate a suite of recommended strategies based on these data and informed by the recent national and state-wide research and practice in serving adult learners. At the end of the eight-month timeframe, each college will have a robust SEM plan tailored to its local context and informed by the latest expert guidance.

Why it Matters 

Disruptions to the U.S. labor market and economy as well as widening gaps in education, income, and wealth outcomes — all exacerbated by the COVID pandemic — have heightened the need for postsecondary systems designed to meet the needs of adult learners to acquire postsecondary credentials with value in the labor market.1 At present, there are almost 90 million adults in the United States without a postsecondary credential, including approximately 40 million (45%) who started but have not completed a credential.2 

In this current landscape, community colleges are eager to expand their outreach to underserved adults in their communities. Yet, staffing and financial constraints often limit the enrollment and support strategies colleges can realistically offer adult learners, leaving them unsure how to navigate complex processes and decisions or disconnected from postsecondary opportunities completely.  

However, as more attention is devoted nationally and locally to adult learners, we now know much more than ever about how to connect with them and support their diverse goals and complex lives. Achieving the Dream (ATD) stands ready to support our Network colleges in identifying which strategies may be most effective in expanding access to opportunity for currently underserved adults in their communities through this new grant effort.  

Goals and Outcomes 

By the end of this initiative, the five participating colleges will have:  

  • Developed a targeted, adult learner-focused SEM plan tailored to their local communities  
  • Identified 2–3 priority strategies from the SEM plan to begin implementing  
  • Cultivated a wider circle of adult learner champions equipped with the latest national research to continue advocating for this population at their institution, in their community, and beyond  
  • Shared their processes and practices supported by this grant with the ATD Network and the project funder  

Additionally, ATD is committed to sharing the knowledge and tools cultivated through this grant with the ATD Network and the wider community college field. We will do this by updating ATD’s new Strategy Hub as the work progresses, adding new strategies, college examples, and new tools colleges can use in their own adult learner efforts.  

Application Information 

ATD is excited to invite applications from any active Network college currently holding the Leader College or Leader College of Distinction designation. You can check your colleges’ status via the Network page on our website. Below is a timeline for the application process.  

May 15, 2024 Application released. Eligible colleges will be contacted directly via email.
June 12, 2024 Application deadline
June 28, 2024 Final decisions made and applicants notified of their status
Late July 2024 Project begins

 

Learn more and apply

Contact 

For more information on this project, or any of ATD’s efforts to expand access and success for adult learners, please contact Julia Lawton, director of program administration, at [email protected].   

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