Collaborating to Close Gender Gap

This past summer the White House hosted the first-ever United State of Women Summit announcing efforts taken under the Obama administration to ensure that all women and girls have equal rights, treatment, and protections. The goal of the summit was to build a roadmap for future policymakers, stakeholders and advocates to continue to increase opportunities for women and girls.

Left to right: Daniel Parino, Jyoti Jasrasaria, Heather Kulp, Johan Uvin and Carol Aguirre

Left to right: Harvard Students Daniel Parino, Jyoti Jasrasaria, with HNMCP Clinical Instructor, Heather Kulp, Johan Uvin, and Carol Aguirre

One of the many initiatives announced at the summit was the collaboration between the U.S. the Department of Education’s (ED), Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, and the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) to develop a salary negotiation toolkit for community college students as part of the Administration’s efforts to advance equal pay policies. This toolkit provides community college students, including young women, with the knowledge and tools that can help them better prepare to negotiate their first salary. As we know, negotiating your salary early in your career can boost your lifetime earnings.

Today, the typical woman who works full-time earns 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and the gap is even wider for women of color. In 2014, the Shriver Report released A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, where they report that black women make only 60 cents, while Latinas make 55 cents, for every dollar that a white man earns.

Three possible explanations for a difference in pay between women and men are unintentional gender-based discrimination, a difference in the way women and men approach salary negotiations, and overt sexism. While many individuals experience difficulties negotiating job terms or an increase in pay, women experience additional challenges when negotiating pay and other job benefits.

Over the last eight years new efforts and initiatives were set in place to better address the gender gap pay, encouraging men and women to demand equality and fairness in the workplace. However, very few salary negotiation resources, if any, exist specifically for community colleges students. This is why OCTAE partnered with HNMCP to create the Salary Negotiation Toolkit. The toolkit was created by Jyoti Jasrasaria and Daniel Parino under consultation with OCTAE and the Women’s Bureau, as part of their second year law program at Harvard Law School. The Toolkit is now available for free on HNMCP’s website.

While much has changed, there remains much to be done. Help bridge the gender gap by practicing and implementing negotiating skills, sharing resources, like the Toolkit, and most importantly, know your worth in the workplace.

Posted by
Management and Program Analyst, Direct Loans Division, Federal Student Aid on detail with OCTAE as a Community Colleges Specialist.

Transitioning English Learners to Postsecondary Education

In 2000, Christine Vega Villarreal a high school senior in San Fernando, California, was still unsure of what she would do after high school. As a first generation student who grew up with immigrant parents from Mexico, she did not have the necessary tools and resources to support her as she considered her options. Likewise, her high school trajectory, due to “tracking,” did not provide Christine the support she needed while in high school. She faced marginalization due to her English Learner (EL) status and was placed in remedial courses. Christine struggled with meeting expectations regarding academic rigor, and found herself increasingly disengaged in class. She began to skip school. It was through the encouragement of her art teacher and classmates, and after many visits to the counselor’s office, that she was able to be placed in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. She struggled at first but eventually these AP courses made her re-engage fully.

Christine, Alfredo, and son, Janitzio

Christine Vega Villarreal with her partner Alfredo Huante, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California, and their son, Janitzio Huante-Vega.

Christine is a first-generation U.S. citizen. Much like many EL students who are U.S. citizens, immigrants and refugees, Christine faced linguistic and resource barriers that limited opportunities. EL students, in fact, tend to face opportunity and achievement gaps and experience lower college going rates. By the time EL students reach 12th grade most have the necessary English skills for daily life but many lack the language proficiency needed to succeed in college. This expected language proficiency deals with mastery of academic vocabulary, discourse style, formality, and complexity of syntax. To successfully transition EL students like Christine to postsecondary education and training, both secondary and postsecondary institutions must understand the unique challenges EL students face and increase their support mechanisms for EL students. Without this understanding and support, entry into postsecondary education might not result in successful completion.

You may wonder whether Christine’s experience is unique. Data tell us it is not.

Read More

Six Federal Agencies Commit to Make College Access and Completion a Reality for More Americans

Today, Secretary of Education John King announced the release of a federal interagency letter, Aligning Federal Supports and Program Delivery for College Access and Completion. The interagency letter highlights the latest guidance and resources that clarify how existing provisions within federal programs of the U.S. Departments of Education, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Treasury can be better aligned for postsecondary access and completion. Secretary King made the announcement at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ annual meeting in Austin, Texas, an event that gathered over 1,300 senior leaders from public higher institutions from across North America.

By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require some postsecondary education or training. Studies have shown that college graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about 66 percent more than those with only a high school diploma and are far less likely to face unemployment. Over the course of a lifetime, the average worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn approximately $1 million more than a worker without any postsecondary education. However, too many students fail to complete their education due to resource constraints. Because now, more than ever before, a college degree is a necessity for individual economic opportunity and competitiveness, alignment of federal programs and policies towards completion is essential. The strength and long-term success of our nation’s economy weighs on a robust higher education system that helps all students succeed.

The interagency letter lists actions taken by each of the six agencies to better help individuals make one the most important investments one can make in his or her future a reality. For example, the U.S. Department of Education recently issued guidance clarifying requirements that designated public school district homeless liaisons inform all unaccompanied homeless youth identified by the district of their eligibility for independent student status on the FAFSA, and this guidance is linked within the letter. Independent status can help homeless students access more aid to cover tuition and books, as well as help secure reliable room and board. Another example is guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicating that students attending an institution of higher education through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) Employment and Training program at least half-time are exempt from the SNAP student rule and, as a result, potentially eligible for SNAP.

In addition to the joint interagency letter, the U.S. Department of Education released the Innovating and Partnering to Support Completion and Success in Higher Education fact sheet spotlighting the results of initiatives made under the Obama Administration that have helped thousands of Americans enroll in and complete college. Such investments have helped Black and Hispanic students earn over 270,000 more undergraduate degrees in 2013-14 than in 2008-09; and a million more Black and Hispanic students enrolled in college in 2014 than in 2008.

The Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, along with its federal partners, is committed to ensuring that federal provisions and other initiatives fulfill their promise of breaking down barriers to accessing the knowledge and skills needed to attain a well-paying job, support a family, and contribute to our community. With the help of state and local partners, together we can strengthen coordination of programs that connect more people to postsecondary opportunities and leverage federal policies that more effectively serve our communities.

Posted by
Special Assistant Office of the Assistant Secretary OCTAE

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Presents: Back to School Week!

This is cross-posted from the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, see the full article with all the events and follow along on Twitter with #HBCUB2School.  

Back to School Week

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU) has partnered with several of our Federal Agency Partners to present Back to School Week on September 19th-23rd 2016.  This week-long celebration will bring federal agencies closer to HBCU students to highlight student opportunities in the government and shine a light on some of the work of the agencies.  To reach as many HBCU students as possible, we will provide a mix of both in-person and virtual events.  Be sure to read each event description as some require pre-registration.  Please check back as the list of events is being updated. Happy Back to School Time! Read more.

Minority-Serving Community Colleges Virtual Convening

Increasing cooperation among community colleges that serve a large minority population or populations is widely viewed among community college faculty and leaders and policymakers as an integral element in ensuring that these institutions improve their capacities to serve their varied student populations.  In furtherance of this collaborative effort, OCTAE, on Thursday, May 19, hosted an all-day virtual event to build upon the efforts begun during its Minority-Serving Community College convening at the Department of Education last fall. Approximately 70 individuals or groups joined to hear updates on a variety of topics and concerns for minority-serving community colleges.  Future content and events will be announced through the OCTAE newsletter, OCTAE Connection, the OCTAE Community Colleges website, as well as the Minority-Serving Community Colleges and Affiliates LINCS group, which can be joined here.

The first topical session was hosted by Amy Firestone of the U.S. Department of Labor on the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium.  Registered Apprenticeships and the College Consortium will be considered in more detail in a future issue of OCTAE Connection. The second presentation focused on White House initiatives that support each of the designated categories of minority-serving institutions.  Each of these initiatives undertakes activities designed to support their particular constituencies.  The third presentation by OCTAE Policy Analyst Kiawanta Hunter-Keiser focused on the Department’s initiatives to support equity in career and technical education, both internally and externally. The fourth session, hosted by Luke Wood and Marissa Vasquez Urias of San Diego State University, discussed the role of faculty in supporting men of color at community colleges with a special emphasis on the need for research, training, and assessment. Drs. Wood and Vasquez Urias invited convening attendees to join the National Consortium on College Men of Color and attend the June 9-10, 2016 working group meeting in San Diego, CA.  The topic of the final session was a presentation by some of the lead institutions for the Minority-Serving Community Colleges Communities of Practice initiative regarding a research conference for minority-serving institutions, an Asian American and Pacific Islander initiative, and on middle-college pathways.

Guest blogger: Erin Berg, OCTAE Community College Program SpecialistErin Berg

New Cybersecurity Education Funding Opportunity

A new funding opportunity was announced by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) to establish state or regional consortia to identify cybersecurity workforce development pathways that address local workforce needs. The goal of these Regional Alliances and Multistakeholder Partnerships to Stimulate (RAMPS) Cybersecurity Education and Workforce Development awards is to enhance and create partnerships of employers, schools, and community organizations that focus on cybersecurity skill shortages within a local or regional economy. The program provides an opportunity for secondary and postsecondary educational institutions to help meet the growing need for cybersecurity professionals.

The program supports the President’s job-driven Ready to Work Initiative and focuses on the critical national need to build a high quality cybersecurity workforce.

A webinar will be held on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time to provide general information regarding this opportunity, offer general guidance on preparing applications, and answer questions. The grant is being funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Key dates

(all times Eastern Time)
Application Open Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2106
Informational Webinar: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 11:00 a.m.
Application Deadline: Tuesday, July 12, 2016, by 11:59 p.m.

Links to more information

Seeking Colleges Interested in Stackable Credentials

Mapping Upward: Stackable Credentials That Lead to Careers

Technical Assistance will be available to community colleges under a new initiative launched by OCTAE. “Mapping Upward” will provide technical assistance to five networks of community and/or technical colleges as they work to embed stackable, industry-recognized credentials within technical associate degree programs.

A webinar is being held May 3 to provide more information on the project and its goals.

Each of the five networks of colleges will consist of two to four community colleges that will develop action plans specific to the workforce needs of their communities while benefiting from the sector-focused peer learning community of the network.

The five teams will be selected through an application process that closes on May 18. The selected teams will participate in an institute in July and will receive customized assistance from subject matter experts and a dedicated coach who will guide their network through needs assessments, goal setting, and action planning. Over a year, the colleges will gain insights into stackable credential design, employer engagement, the alignment of industry certifications, faculty collaboration, awarding of credit, and credit transfer agreements.

You can find more information on the project on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network along with a link to register for the webinar to be held on May 3.

Posted by
Robin A. Utz, Branch Chief College and Career Transitions, Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE)

Free Consumer Protection Tools for Educators and Students

A guest blog by Cristina Miranda, Division of Consumer and Business Education, Federal Trade Commission 

April is Financial Literacy Month! Find free tools to help students understand consumer protection basics – including financial literacy – in plain and simple language at Consumer.gov in English and Consumidor.gov in Spanish. This free educational website from the Federal Trade Commission can help students learn how to avoid scams, manage their money, use credit and loans carefully, and protect their personal information.

Federal Trade Commission

Federal Trade Commission

The site is easy to use, easy to navigate, and accessible to people with different learning preferences and literacy levels. Educators can access free articles, videos, and worksheets about managing money, – including making a budget; credit, loans, and debt, how to get and fix credit; and avoiding scams and identity theft. Other tools include presentations, and lesson plans (arriving Spring 2016). You can also hear content read aloud; just click the “listen” button next to each article in either English or Spanish.

It’s easy — and free — to use and share Consumer.gov and Consumidor.gov information. Everything is in the public domain and there are no copyright limits. Users can download copies to hand out, link to a page or copy text into a newsletter.

Request printed copies of the Consumer.gov and Consumidor.gov materials as a sample pack, including all topics in English and Spanish, or in tear-off pads of 50 for each topic. Students can refer to these one-page flyers when making financial decisions, or complete the Making a Budget worksheet to make their own monthly budget. Copies may be ordered from ftc.gov/bulkorder (unlimited quantities) and the FTC will ship them for free.

Both Consumer.gov and Consumidor.gov are featured resources in the LINCS Learner Center, which connects adult learners to freely availalbe learning sites.

After Finals, Foster Youth Students Continue to Face a Difficult Test

Last year on December 30th, Annie Blackledge and I co-authored a blog post called “After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test.” We wrote the blog to draw attention to the issue that many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live during winter break until classes resume in January. While several institutions have put in place solutions to avoid this spell of unnecessary homelessness, not all institutions have. I am reposting the blog from last year as an additional call to action to do the right thing on behalf of homeless and foster youth and young adult emancipated students.


After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test

As winter break unwinds and college students are at home for the holidays, many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live until classes resume in January. College campuses traditionally close down for winter break. For these vulnerable students their college campus is their home, their community and a primary source of security. While their peers are headed home to see family and catch up with old friends, many of these young people are faced with bleak prospects for the holiday season.

These vulnerable youth face the same struggles as other young people trying to maintain good grades, navigating social peer groups, and planning their futures, but they face the additional burdens associated with little to no adult guidance or support. Fortunately, higher education professionals across our nation have begun to tackle the unique issues faced by homeless and foster care students. They are developing comprehensive strategies to address the most persistent barriers these students face; not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

“Higher education can be the silver bullet to achieving long-term health, housing, and economic security. And for young people who have already overcome so much adversity just to earn a seat in a college classroom, they should have every opportunity—inside and outside of the classroom—to succeed” says Jasmine Hayes, Policy Director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Ensuring these youth have a safe, stable place to call home in-between semesters is critical. Keeping student housing open and available for youth experiencing homelessness during semester breaks is an effective approach.”

Programs in states like Colorado and North Carolina have implemented Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in their postsecondary institutions which provide these students access to designated college administrators who are committed to helping them to successfully navigate the college-going process. States and higher education institutions across the country are also working to address the issues these students face, including

  • access to higher education opportunities and financial support;
  • navigation of the college-going process, including financial aid and service referral processes; and
  • basic needs like employment, housing and food.

These efforts are ensuring these most vulnerable students reach their highest potential.

Colleges can play a pivotal role in supporting the academic success of these students. Just ask for foster youth, Alain Datcher. “Entering college as a first time student was a daunting experience. It was a mixture of culture shock, academic rigor and rapid growth. I don’t believe I would have succeeded without the support network I had in one woman – Tamara Malone. She was a mentor, academic advisor, dean and more in one caring, compassionate woman.” When asked how he thought his experience could translate for other students who are homeless or in foster care he replied, “Proximity will define opportunity for these young people. Having a close, approachable, and tangible support network will make the difference. It did in my college education at Biola University. I’ll be earning a Master’s of Public Policy degree in April. Having one caring, single point of contact in Tamra is a big reason why I will.”

When educators act, they change lives. If you know of a foster youth student in your institution, be proactive and reach out. It can make all the difference. Find out more at http://findyouthinfo.gov/.

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

Strengthening Working Families Initiatives: $25M Funding Opportunity

This is a cross-posted announcement from the Department of Labor. 

DOL announces $25 million available for partnerships that improve access to education and training and quality, affordable child care for parents looking to expand their skills.

These grants reflect the Obama administration’s commitment to support working families and fuel policies aligned with 21st Century workforce realities.

To help parents obtain affordable, quality child care necessary to pursue education and training opportunities leading to good jobs in growing industries, the U.S. Department of Labor today on December 17 the availability of up to $25 million in grants through the Strengthening Working Families Initiative.

The grants will support public-private partnerships that bridge gaps between local workforce development and child-care systems. In addition to addressing these systemic barriers, funded programs will enable parents to access training and customized supportive services needed for IT, health care, advanced manufacturing jobs, and others. All participants in grant funded programs must be custodial parents, legal guardians, foster parents, or others standing in loco parentis with at least one dependent. Up to 25 percent of the grantees total budget may be used to provide quality, affordable care and other services to support their participation in training.

“For too many working parents, access to quality, affordable child care remains a persistent barrier to getting the training and education they need to move forward on a stronger, more sustainable career path,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Our economy works best when we field a full team. That means doing everything we can to provide flexible training options and streamlined services that can help everyone in America realize their dreams.”

Grants up to $4 million will be awarded to partnerships that include the public workforce system, education and training providers, business entities, and local child-care or human-service providers. In addition, all partnerships must include at least three employers. Grantees will also be required to secure an amount equal to at least 25 percent of the total requested funds through outside leveraged resources.

The department will award grants in spring 2016 with program activities beginning in July 2016. For additional information and to apply, read the full funding opportunity announcement online at Grants.gov.