Making the Case for Adult College Completion

By Patricia Steele
HigherEd Insights
Research, data, and experience make it clear that helping adults complete degrees, certificates, and credentials of value is in the best interests of students, employers, the community, and the economy. As professionals seeking to help adults complete degrees, you already know how important it is to make a case for your work to key stakeholders. For some, those stakeholders are state or local policymakers and government agencies. For others, it may be funders, institutional leaders, campus faculty and staff, community-based organizations, or business and industry partners. And while for all of us, getting the message out to potential students is also important, the tips here are focused on securing buy-in and support from key stakeholders critical to the success of your work. 

Hot Tips and Engaging Examples

To help you and those you work with get a clear, research-based message out to your stakeholders, we’ve put together some examples.
  • Explain why college completion is important in general

Data that show how college and credential completion boosts the struggling economy—local, state, and national—are a powerful part of making the case to stakeholders integral to the success of your effort.

Educating West Virginia is Everyone’s Business: The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, provides an example of how one state worked with key stakeholders, especially state colleges and universities, to show the economic and other benefits of supporting college completion.

The group also distilled the main points of the comprehensive report into a short, audience-friendly presentation

  • Give stakeholders something short and sweet to read.  
The American Association of Community Colleges’ Building the Case for Completion is a good example of a crisp, brief, reader-friendly publication that lays out the why completion is important to students, the community, and the economy.
  • Demonstrate what other states are doing with policy to focus on adult learners and why. 

The Center for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) published State Policies to Bring Adult Learning into Focus: A Companion Guide to do just this.

  • Show why employers and others should care about adult college completion and how it benefits them and the economy. 

Corporate Voices for Working Families’ A Talent Development Solution: Exploring Business Drivers and Returns in Learn and Earn Partnerships lays out effective practices and key returns of partnerships between employers and educators, with a focus on how such partnerships create a pool of workers with the skills employers need and who employers want to hire.

  • Provide success stories to emphasize your point to stakeholders

Grad TX, sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, has strong examples of adults who have made it to a degree. Reach Higher in Oklahoma helps potential students learn from others who have succeeded

Tell Us More

We want to hear from you in the comment section below. How do you get your message out about the importance of adult degree completion to key stakeholders?  Are there resources you would like to share?

Note: HigherEd Insight serves as the independent evaluator for Lumina's adult college completion strategy.


adult learners

Another good resource relative to educating adults at the community college level is The SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends & Strategies. In particular, the workforce development and college completion sections might be of interest. See http://www.edpath.com/thesource.html.

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