In response to the identified gaps, C21U’s Programs and Outreach focuses on identifying and exploring innovative ways to encourage increased opportunities for interactions and engagement among faculty, students, the university and surrounding communities as ways of improving college access and completion.
In an information-driven and digitally connected world, participation and engagement are more complicated, readily available, and important to 21st century learning. The increasingly prevalent online and virtual modes of communication and learning reinforce the continued importance of face-to-face and in person engagement. The two themes, always-on connectivity and the importance of participation and engagement, constitute important facets of higher education access and completion in 21st century learning.
According to the Lumina Foundation 2013-2016 Strategic Plan, the percentage of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 with a two- or four-year degree is 38.7 percent. Yet 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020. To close that gap, we must explore new ways to expand access and success in post-secondary education beyond high school, particularly among low-income and first-generation students, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, veterans and adults who have some college but lack a credential. Objectives include increasing awareness of faculty and administrators, community leaders, business leaders, and other citizens on the various tactics available to increase attainment and developing approaches to create the fundamental change needed within the U.S. higher education system—particularly finance and credentialing models to increase required attainment levels. Expanding the possibilities and types of learning, creating new systems of quality credentials and credits defined by learning and competencies rather than time, and alignment with workforce needs and trends are important objectives.
In October 2013, Lumina Foundation announced that C21U Director Rich DeMillo has been named one of the first four Lumina Fellows.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also focuses on issues of access and completion via its College-Ready Education and Postsecondary Success programs. The innovative programs are targeted at supporting efforts to insure secondary students are prepared for college success, and once there, that students complete college with an education "tailored to their needs, academic abilities, and career or employment goals."
More broadly, the University System of Georgia notes in its Policy Review Task Force Recommendations Report: “The concept of new models also includes breaking down institutional walls—that knowledge in general may be acquired from institutions or non-institutional entities outside the USG. These may be formal or informal arrangements for both faculty and students to benefit from the growing availability of educational resources, assessments, and whole courses (e.g. MOOCs).”
In the 2014 Budget Proposal for Education, the U.S. Department of Education underscores the need for innovation at a national level to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities to children, expand educational opportunities, and prepare all Americans for the challenges of the 21st century.
In response to the identified gaps, C21U’s Access and Completion Initiative focuses on identifying and exploring innovative ways to encourage increased opportunities for interactions and engagement among faculty, students, the university, and surrounding communities as ways of improving college access and completion.
As part of its ongoing partnership with the Campus Community Partnership Foundation, C21U promotes Mentor Walk, held on the Georgia Tech campus and in the community. Mentor Walk raises awareness of the importance of education and encourages students to stay in school.
Mentor Walk is designed to positively impact the drop-out rate by exposing children to opportunities for their future with education. It introduces students in school to college life, with discussions about college preparation, successful job interviews, financial literacy, vocational modules, and literacy for children. To participate in the Fall 2016 Mentor Walks, visit http://www.mentorwalk.org/ for more information.
The Campus Community Partnership Foundation "recognizes excellence in campus community partnerships and service learning. It encourages college students to develop social responsibility by applying their classroom learning to address community problems with innovative and sustainable solutions, in partnership with the community."
Georgia Tech has several venues to support student learning, faculty mentorship, and community engagement, including:
The Office of Leadership & Civic Engagement applies a student-centered approach for students to develop and clarify identity, to understand others, and to promote social change. One component of change is service learning, experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.
The Office of Community Relations works closely with local neighborhood organizations, non-profits, and governmental entities to help improve and empower various communities.
The Vertically-Integrated Projects (VIP) Program is an undergraduate education program that operates in a research and development context. Undergraduate students who join VIP teams earn academic credit for their participation in design and discovery efforts that assist faculty and graduate students with research and development issues in their areas of technical expertise.