TCC Selected for Prestigious National Initiative Connected to Workforce Development

Tulsa Community College, selected by the Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center, joins an elite group of community colleges from across the country for a first-of-its-kind initiative focused on improving students’ post-graduation outcomes.

The goal for “Unlocking Opportunity: The Post-Graduation Success and Equity Network” is to see thousands more students—including first generation, students of color and those from lower-income backgrounds—entering and completing programs that lead directly to jobs paying a family-sustaining wage or to the efficient and effective completion of a bachelor’s degree.

“Our selection into Unlocking Opportunity means we move to the next phase in our ongoing, focused work on student success which was jump started by our selection in 2015 for the American Association of Community College’s Pathways Project,” said Dr. Leigh B. Goodson, TCC President & CEO. “This next step moves beyond awarding students a degree or certificate. Unlocking Opportunity focuses on significantly improving outcomes in workforce programs leading to high-demand jobs and higher salaries or successful completion of a bachelor’s degree. This is essential work as we continue to diversify our changing economy in northeastern Oklahoma and across the state. TCC is committed to providing the necessary supports to students to ensure their success and that of our business community.”

With the help of the Pathways Project, TCC made great strides transforming the student experience leading to the highest number of graduates in the College’s history during 2021-2022, a 25% increase in the number of credentials awarded in the past five years and an increase in the graduation rate by 10 percentage points in the past 10 years. As a founding member of the Tulsa Higher Education Consortium, TCC has strengthened transfer partnerships with seven universities in the region with the goal to increase transfer and bachelor’s degree completion. In advance of Unlocking Opportunity, TCC is already working to make labor market information more accessible to students (and earlier) and has included Career Services in New Student Orientation at the beginning of a student’s college journey.

This national network, led by the Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center at Teacher College, Columbia University, 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 with higher earnings potential for the individual. That means making sure every individual is set up to earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential—including students who are first-generation college students, 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.

“For many years, community colleges have been focused on improving graduation rates—and progress has been steady and impressive,” says Josh Wyner, founder and executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program. “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 network will run from 2023 through 2028. During the first three years, 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 CCRC and Aspen alongside the continuing release of publicly accessible tools, case studies, and reports to share the lessons with the field. Throughout the process, colleges will focus on strengthening and rethinking existing programs and developing new program models that expand career and educational opportunity for all students.

“We’re excited to work with these colleges to help them evaluate and strengthen their programs and see which lead to great outcomes: either good jobs right away or via completion of a bachelor’s degree,” said Davis Jenkins, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center. “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.”

The colleges in the network are:

  • Alamo Colleges District: San Antonio College, TX
  • Laramie County Community College, WY
  • Lorain County Community College, OH
  • Monroe Community College, NY
  • Odessa College, TX
  • Sinclair College, OH
  • Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, WI
  • St. Petersburg College, FL
  • Tulsa Community College, OK
  • Valencia College, FL

San Jacinto College in Texas will also participate, as a resource college for the network. This project is made possible by Arnold Ventures, Ascendium, ECMC Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Lumina Foundation.

Additional comments from stakeholders from across the state of Oklahoma:

“On behalf of the TCC Regents, we are excited about what this means for the economic mobility for all of our students as they go into the workforce,” said TCC Regent Chair Caron Lawhorn. “It is particularly impactful when you consider TCC serves more Oklahomans than any other institution in the state.”

“More than half of Oklahoma’s top 100 occupations for economic growth will require an associate’s degree or higher by 2030, including the top 29 highest paying jobs. Tulsa Community College graduates meet critical employment needs in many fields, including education, computer technology, and business, among others,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. “I congratulate TCC for this honor recognizing the college’s exceptional success as a driver of workforce development and university transfer in our state.”

“We want Tulsa to be globally competitive and world-class. One of the keys of being world-class for us is we want to be a city with equality of opportunity. Tulsa has to be a city where everyone has an equal opportunity for a great life and for success. There is probably no greater driver of that in our community than Tulsa Community College," said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. "The next step is to find out how we can do an even better job of translating degree attainment and attainment of graduation from TCC into advanced degree attainment and to jobs here in our city."

“In economic development, we have a deep responsibility to diversify and ensure our economy is downturn proof,” said Rue L. Ramsey, Tulsa Regional Chamber Vice President, Workforce & Talent Strategies. “As we add emerging technologies and innovative industries to our current landscape, we acknowledge it is critical to increase the sheer number of people entering the talent pipeline. This requires every entity in our talent-ecosystem to train, retool and upskill students and workers from all cultural backgrounds and from every demographic. The message to the people must be clear—no matter what your zip code or your educational attainment, our regional employers need you now and for the future of workforce in Northeast Oklahoma.

“Workforce issues are currently a huge roadblock when it comes to growing Oklahoma’s economy. We cannot afford to overlook any avenue that will bring more skilled, work-ready Oklahomans into the labor pool. The Unlocking Opportunity initiative that Tulsa Community College has been chosen for is a difference maker in moving our state forward,” said Chad Warmington, president and CEO of The State Chamber.