It isn’t a new thought that something must be done within Rhode Island’s higher education system to provide easier, more-affordable access to post-secondary education to create a workforce matched to the state’s available jobs.
“But the novel approach [now] is that we are making an effort to work across sectors, around the table, and I think it’s the power of our community working together that will help us get some traction on some of these very difficult issues,” Deborah Grossman-Garber, R.I. Department of Higher Education associate commissioner for planning and policy, said last week.
On April 16, the office of higher education was scheduled to present “Rhode Island Partnerships Project: Increasing Post-Secondary Degree Attainment to Support Economic Development in R.I.” The report will introduce four initiatives designed to improve college-degree attainment for adult residents who have not completed or begun a post-secondary education.
Grossman-Garber said there are between 80,000 and 125,000 Rhode Island adult residents who have some post-secondary education but have not earned a certificate or degree.
“So they are not able to benefit from those credits that they’ve accumulated. We’ve got a workforce that is underprepared for the level of jobs for the 21st century that is going to be available in Rhode Island,” she said. “We as a state are looking at mechanisms to get adult students back into structured programs that will benefit them and by extension benefit the state economically.”
The Rhode Island Partnerships Project was established in September 2012 to address the state’s so-called skills gap by creating concrete action plans. It was initiated by the R.I. Office of Higher Education and is a group of more than 40 Rhode Island business, higher education and government leaders.
The group’s work over the last five months has resulted in an assessment that the highest-priority action the state can take to improve its economy is to increase the number of residents who hold a bachelor’s degree, associate degree or a post-secondary certificate.
The group is announcing four initiatives aimed at making that happen: Internships/Apprenticeships; a One-Stop Shop; Loan Mitigation; and Adult Learners.