Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki
  • Senate confirms Walsh as labor secretary
  • Bills to reauthorize TRIO programs, help rural students
  • Six ways to improve transfer of credits

Senate confirms Walsh as labor secretary

The Senate on Monday confirmed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to be secretary of the U.S. Labor Department in a vote of 68 to 29.

“As the son of immigrants and a former union laborer, I share their deep commitment to building an economy that works for all,” Walsh said in a statement after the Senate vote. “I have been a fighter for the rights of working people throughout my career, and I remain committed to ensuring that everyone – especially those in our most marginalized communities – receives and benefits from full access to economic opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace. I believe we must meet this historic moment and, as the nation’s Secretary of Labor, I pledge to help our economy build back better.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Walsh said he would seek closer ties with the U.S. Education Department and other federal agencies to better coordinate education and workforce development opportunities. He also said that various sectors of education should work together better, especially in helping students explore careers and providing various paths toward good-paying occupations.

Bills to reauthorize TRIO programs, help rural students

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced two bipartisan education bills on Monday: One would reauthorize and strengthen federal TRIO programs, and the other would encourage and assist students in rural areas to go to college.

The Educational Opportunities and Success Act would modestly increase grant sizes and make it easier for administrators to reach students who would benefit from TRIO, Collins said. It also would update how the programs are evaluated and streamline the application process. In addition, the bill would increase the small stipend for students participating in Upward Bound, which is one of the TRIO programs, to visit college campuses. It also would create a new stipend for military veterans participating in Upward Bound.

“I’ve been a long-time champion of TRIO,” Collins said on the Senate floor. “It helps students prepare for, succeed in and graduate from college or other institutions of higher learning.”

Collins also reintroduced the Success for Rural Students and Communities Act, which would authorize $60 million for demonstration grants to create community partnerships that help rural students access college and career pathways. The partnerships, which would comprise K-12 schools, colleges, local employers and other stakeholders, would help to expose students to college campuses, courses, programs and internships or reach out to students who stopped out or dropped out before earning a college credential, Collins said.

Six ways to improve transfer of credits

A task force comprising two dozen college and university leaders – including five community college CEOs – on Monday detailed recommendations to improve the credit transfer process for college students.

The group, convened by the American Council on Education (ACE), released a report that provided recommendations and best practices to modify existing transfer and award credit practices to better serve transfer students.

According to ACE, the report comes at a time when college students are becoming more mobile, moving in and out as well as through multiple colleges and universities and other learning environments, such as military service or the workforce. However, students continue to face barriers when transferring academic credit earned at other higher education institutions. Addressing the hurdles is especially critical during the pandemic, as students are likely to continue – or even increase – to swirl among various colleges.

The task force’s recommendations call on colleges to:

  • Prioritize the award of transfer credit and credit for prior learning, and its application to degree requirements, as an essential component of student success. “Embed this priority throughout the culture of your institution,” it said.
  • Adjust end-to-end policies and practices to improve the ability of students to receive credit for learning already acquired, including removing unnecessary obstacles that prevent students from accessing their transcripts to continue their education at another institution.
  • Leverage technologies to facilitate the review of credit, to provide greater consistency across credit award determinations, and to increase the efficiency and timeliness of the process.
  • Improve transparency by making clear upfront what credits will be awarded and how they will be applied to a student’s degree pathway.
  • Dedicate the resources necessary to ensure quality advising that provides students with early, knowledgeable, and personalized information and guidance at key points throughout the course of their learning pathway. Implement a cross-institutional advising approach with key transfer partners to the maximum extent possible.
  • Partner with most frequent sending or receiving transfer institutions to implement articulation agreements and structured pathways to increase the transfer and award of credit toward degree requirements.

Strada Education Network and the Charles Koch Foundation funded the project.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.