Officials with the Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Community College Research Center at Teacher College, Columbia University, on Feb. 7 said the Alamo Colleges District, among other community college systems, was chosen for participation in Unlocking Opportunity: The Post-Graduation Success and Equity Network.

Announced last fall, this network will be comprised of 10 community colleges committed to improving students’ post-completion outcomes, a news release said.

San Antonio College will serve as the pilot college across the district, the release said, adding that ACD and SAC leaders will participate in coaching and work closely to prioritize Unlocking Opportunity strategies to implement across each college.

“The Alamo Colleges is proud to participate in this first-of-its-kind initiative that will build upon our goal of thousands more students entering and completing programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand fields,” ACD Chancellor Mike Flores said.

According to the release, this national network will lead the field in shifting from the important but incomplete goal of graduating students with any credential to advancing access and completion with the end in mind: credentials of value.

This, the release said, means ensuring every student is set up to earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential, including students of color and low-income students who are least likely to enroll in and complete the programs that most often result in strong outcomes.

SAC President Naydeen Gonzalez-De Jesus said her campus is honored to be named the pilot college for ACD in this initiative.

“As winner of the Aspen Prize, we are uniquely positioned to contribute to this collaborative effort that will boost student outcomes for Alamo Colleges and, ultimately, community colleges across the nation,” Gonzalez-De Jesus said in a statement.

In May, ACD earned national recognition from the American Association of Community Colleges for its work of offering seamless pathways that lead to student success through its Transfer Advising Guides.

The release said, with clear and concise pathways through TAGs, students can transfer with courses that are degree applicable not only for ACD but the student’s university of choice. That saves students time and money, and minimizes any loss of credit hours, the release said.

Josh Wyner, founder and executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program, said for many years, community colleges have been successfully focused on improving graduation rates.

“But with enrollments dropping for a decade, it is time for community colleges to turn their attention to increasing the value of the credentials they deliver, especially for the large numbers of Black, Hispanic and low-income students who rely so heavily on community colleges to provide a path to a better life. The colleges selected for this network have shown they can make scaled and systemic change, and are ready to work together on this critical goal,” Wyner said in a statement.

The release said the network will run from 2023-28. During the first three years, participating colleges will set concrete goals, plan reform strategies and implement changes with the support of coaches and learning sessions.

The final three years will include continued monitoring and research by the CCRC and Aspen alongside the continuing release of publicly accessible tools, case studies and reports to share the lessons with the field.

According to the release, throughout the process, colleges will concentrate on strengthening and rethinking existing programs as well as developing new program models that expand career and educational opportunity for all students.

CCRC Senior Research Scholar Davis Jenkins said his organization is excited to work with these colleges to help them evaluate and strengthen their programs and see which lead to great outcomes, may they be a good-paying job or completion of a bachelor’s degree.

“This requires intensive work, and I cannot imagine a better group of institutions from which we can learn and share lessons with the field on how to deliver excellent and equitable programs,” Jenkins said in a statement.