States can’t boost attainment without better serving adult learners. Here’s how.

“All students can succeed if we are ready to serve them. No exceptions.”

— Sarah Ancel, founder and CEO, Student-Ready Strategies

“She used the word,” educators behind me whisper. There is a collective gasp from the audience.

Andragogy. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t. Know what it means? I didn’t.

Turns out it’s an important word if North Carolina wants to meet the myFutureNC attainment goal of 2 million North Carolinians with a high-quality postsecondary credential or degree by 2030.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, andragogy is “the method and practice of teaching adult learners.” And it is distinct from pedagogy, “the method and practice of teaching.”

Meet Sarah Ancel, the founder and CEO of Student-Ready Strategies, the whisperer of all things when it comes to adult learners.

Please watch this video. Please share this video with your teams and your faculty.

When it comes to building student-ready learning environments, here’s the road map, according to Ancel

“Colleges should be student ready — and not the other way around.” People don’t need to be convinced of that, but they do need to be helped to achieve that goal.

“All students can succeed if we are ready to serve them.” No exceptions.

Attainment goals are hard to meet, but here’s the formula: 1) “graduate more of the students you have,” 2) “close achievement gaps so all students are graduating at the same rate,” and 3) “redefine and expand the pipeline of entering students.”

Our systems get the results they are designed to get. “There is an unofficial, separate system for adult learners, which is the part-time model … Our part-time system for adults in higher education is perfectly designed to take adults, have them spend more money, and in four out of five cases add them to your ‘some college, no degree’ population.”

Educational opportunities need to be designed in such a way that we are “not asking students to be any different than who they are when they show up at our door.”

Triage adult student-ready schedules, adult student-ready support, and adult student-ready onboarding. Ancel makes specific recommendations for each in the video.

Education stakeholders need to reinforce the value of higher education in the community, cultivate interest in higher education, connect higher education with social services, and facilitate employer connections.

It’s in the moment a child sees a parent earn a credential or degree and internalizes the value of education that we will create the momentum not just to meet our 2030 goal but “to strengthen the fabric of our country through a shared value of education.”

North Carolina needs to approach the 2030 goal with a sense of urgency and gravity.

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Taylor Shain is a documentary filmmaker and video producer with EducationNC.

Community Colleges myFutureNC The Editor's Notes