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3 good ideas from the 2022 Rural Community College Alliance Conference

Rural Community College Alliance conference speakers pictured from left: Marcie Moore, Dean of Business, Engineering and Information Technologies, Zane State College; Lisa Larson, Head of the Community College Growth Engine Fund, Education Design Lab; Lori Barber, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at College of Eastern Idaho; Robert Nye, President of Finger Lakes Community College; Miriam Swords Kalk, Senior Education Designer, Education Design Lab; Todd Sloane, Director, Workforce and Career Solutions, Finger Lakes Community College; and Maureen Isimbi, Associate Education Designer, Education Design Lab.

Dr. Lisa Larson, Head of the Community College Growth Engine Fund at the Lab (and former president of rural Eastern Maine Community College), attended the 2022 Rural Community College Alliance Conference with a few of the Lab’s BRIDGES Rural partners, pictured above. The conference was held Sept. 14-16 at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluff, IA. 

Among the themes during the three-day conference? Skills-based hiring, equity, and the power of partnerships. While the sessions were filled with creative people and ideas, these were Larson’s top three takeaways:

1. How to award academic credit for industry credentials.

The first inspiring idea comes from Michigan, where colleges can build in their own credit equivalencies through the Michigan Transfer Pathways portal (set to launch in April 2023). Learners will be able to go to the portal and enter their industry credentials to see how many credits they would receive. For example, an electric lineworker program requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Any learner producing their CDL is automatically granted six credits toward the degree. Gogebic Community College has already created over 100 agreements specific to articulated industry credentials.

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2. How one Texas promise program uses tech tools to empower learners.

The Red River Promise program at North Central Texas College (NCTC) supports 11th and 12th grade learners from 14 school districts to learn about in-demand careers, get excited about college through pledge rallies, and build confidence and competence. Learners meeting the program requirements are guaranteed their tuition and fees are covered. NCTC has a goal of raising $25 million to support the need in their region to make sure all high school graduates have the opportunity to go to college and earn a credential of value.  They used $4 million of their HEERF federal emergency funds to begin this work. While there are many promise programs, the Red River Promise stands out because of its use of Salesforce dashboards to measure real-time learner progress from interest to registration and beyond. Learners also have access to GreenLight, which provides a learner record to organize and share transcripts, vaccination documents, resumes, letters of recommendation, etc. NCTC shared a learner quote that I thought said it all: “Participating in the Red River Promise doesn’t have to be a plan to fall back on, it can be your plan to move forward.”

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3. How to join the Rural Education Community of Practice

A highlight of the conference was the Lab’s BRIDGES workshop about building a Rural Education Community of Practice, which will serve as a space for powerful thought partnership, collaboration, and collective impact to support all rural learners. The COP is open to anyone working in or connected to rural education. This is truly a ground-breaking opportunity for rural communities and for the Lab!

Learn more: 

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