Internships & Co-Ops (NEO Talent Exchange)


College Completion (NEO Talent Dividend)


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Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend Action Plan

The Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend Action Plan was developed by the Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend Steering Committee and published in December 2010.  This page includes the goals and strategies outlined in the full report.  For the complete report including college attainment research and metrics, download a PDF copy of the Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend Action Plan.



Upon consultation with CEOs for Cities, FutureWorks, Public Agenda, and leaders in Northeast Ohio, the Talent Dividend Steering Committee determined that the region will achieve its Talent Dividend if it

  • improves college readiness,
  • increases retention to degree completion, and
  • increases degree attainment among adults with some college and no degree.

Strategic Initiatives


The Talent Dividend Steering Committee, through the work of three Action Teams established to develop strategies to meet each of the three goals, collectively identified six strategic initiatives to undertake as part of the Talent Dividend.  Each initiative includes suggested measures to track progress, which will be monitored by both implementers and Steering Committee members.

Increase Participation in Dual Enrollment Programs


Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to receive credit on a high school and college transcript simultaneously.  Different types of dual enrollment programs are offered.  Early College, Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), Career Tech Prep, and Seniors to Sophomores are some of the programs in which students can earn college credit prior to high school graduation.

With respect to college readiness, dual enrollment programs build the rigor of high school curricula and help students become comfortable with college-level coursework.  Additionally, families save money because they do not pay full tuition costs.  In fact, some students can even earn an entire year’s worth of college credit prior to high school graduation.

From a college retention standpoint, dual enrollment enables students to earn at least 20 credits by the end of their first year in college, a key indicator of college success.  A 2006 report for the U.S. Department of Education notes that

[l]ess than 20 credits by the end of the first calendar year of enrollment (no matter what term one started, whether summer, fall, winter, spring) is a serious drag on degree completion…It is all the more reason to begin the transition process in high school with expanded dual enrollment programs offering true postsecondary coursework so that students enter higher education with a minimum of six additive credits…Six is good, nine better, and twelve is a guarantee of momentum (p.  xx).

The use of dual enrollment programs can be measured through headcounts or number of courses or credits successfully completed.  The data may be available from colleges and school districts, but care must be taken not to double count dual enrollment students.

Increase College Knowledge


College students and their families need to be familiar with the requirements for college entrance and college completion.  “College Knowledge” includes college and career aspirations, admission and entrance exam requirements, appropriate course selection, and financial literacy.

Increasing College Knowledge may occur through targeted communications or special events that teach prospective students and their families about college going.  For adults with some college and no degree, “education blitz” events, which have been implemented in other regions with great success, can bring together colleges and universities, employers, and potential students to offer targeted seminars and college fairs for adult learners.

According to Public Agenda, the “[l]ack of information and support about college and financial aid decisions is an avoidable barrier to postsecondary education” (p. 11).  Potential college students, particularly first-generation students and low-income students, need counseling to support a college-going culture.  Adult learners often lack knowledge of college programs, employer benefits, credit transfer policies, or they may be generally fearful of returning to the classroom.  Nearly three-quarters of students surveyed by Public Agenda in 2009 supported programs to work with advisors to make good decisions about college.

Measuring progress for College Knowledge includes tracking the number of communications and events designed to offer counseling to prospective students, the number of participants at the events, event evaluations or pre- and post-event tests, and the number of students attending an event who enroll at a postsecondary institution.

Increase Social Support, Encouragement, and Accountability


Once students—especially first-generation students—arrive on campus, they often need guidance to successfully complete their degree programs.  First Year Experience programming, learning communities, financial literacy seminars, and career and academic advising provide support that is critical to retention.  The Center for Community College Student Engagement notes that engagement beyond the classroom also helps student retention.

The Gates Foundation—through its Completion by Design initiative—and Public Agenda (in 2009 and 2010) underscore the need for a holistic and systematic approach to achieving these objectives.  Many first-generation students require “hand-holding” and therefore need proactive interventions and intense monitoring that hold them accountable.  Additionally, consistent and continual career advising and personalized academic advising have been shown to predict persistence and degree completion, as have First Year Experience programming, learning communities, and other cohort strategies (e.g., group tutoring or study skills sessions).

Colleges and universities may track the socioeconomic status of enrolling students, including non-native English speaking and first-generation data; the number of high school graduates with a degree, certificate, or college hours earned; the number of students continuing their education in the region; and the overall success rate for both two-year and four-year degrees.  Correlating these measurements enables institutions to monitor what programs work and for whom.

Engage Employers in College Recruitment


Employers and human resource professionals should take the lead in conducting outreach to adults with some college and no degree in order to recruit them back to college.  Current adult learners or successful graduates may partner with the employers to provide testimonials that returning to college is possible despite competing demands for their time and attention.  Employers should use this opportunity to disseminate information about their programs to make college going possible for adult students (e.g., flexible work schedules or tuition reimbursements).  Initiatives in other regions (e.g., Greater Milwaukee Committee) have shown successful results in direct employer-to-student outreach.

In a focus group study in Northeast Ohio, Public Agenda found that “[f]or many young adults, balancing the financial and time demands of college with work were seen as the greatest barriers to enrollment” (p.  5).  Colleges and universities engage in targeted student recruitment for adult learners, but encouragement directly from the prospective student’s employer may make the transition back to the classroom more attainable.  Northeast Ohio needs to improve the college-going culture in the workplace, including messages about the economic benefit of earning postsecondary credentials.

Measuring progress on engaging employers includes tracking the number of employers who have college-friendly practices and the number of those employers engaging in outreach with their employees.  Other measurements include the number of adults with some college and no degree who enroll in a postsecondary program as a result of employer outreach.

Expand Adult Experiential Learning Pathways


Earning a postsecondary credential is only one point on a continuum for college students, a continuum that for adult learners may include prior college coursework, previous work experience, and even a commitment to remain with an employer in exchange for tuition benefits.  Pathways for adult learners should include expanded prior learning assessments and awarding of credits by colleges and universities, and expanded tuition benefits in exchange for terms of service by employers.  In addition, pathways may include co-ops or internships, common practices for traditionally aged students but less available to adult learners.

Northeast Ohio has more than half-a-million residents with some college and no degree, a figure that undoubtedly includes adults who are ready and willing to return to college given the strong connections between postsecondary credentials and career advancement.  Here the goal is more than to award more college degrees; it is to put adult learners on a pathway to career advancement that aligns with critical industry sector and market needs in Northeast Ohio.  Also important is to create “stackable” course programs that build upon each other and eventually lead to degree attainment.  Research has shown that it is easier to attract and retain adult learners if they build their postsecondary education around an associate degree and certificates that build to a bachelor’s and advanced degrees.     

Measuring progress on expanded pathways includes tracking the number of colleges and universities that offer credit for prior learning or work experience, the amount of credit that is awarded, and the number of employers that encourage college going through tuition benefits.

Provide Professional Development for Implementers


Regional collaboration and sharing of best practices must occur to achieve the Talent Dividend in Northeast Ohio, particularly related to the aforementioned strategies.  To that end, site-based or web-based regional conferences or meetings should be convened to increase participants’ knowledge of the research and practices in dual enrollment, college knowledge, student support services, employer engagement, and adult experiential learning pathways.  Conferences should not only bring together local stakeholders, but also attract national experts who can provide counseling to our regional implementers on their initiatives.

The Talent Dividend Steering Committee identified initiatives and implementers that have been successful in increasing college going and degree attainment, and those efforts should be shared across the region.  Providing hands-on opportunities for leaders and practitioners to convene and share their practices for others to replicate is a cornerstone of the Talent Dividend.  In addition, initiatives outside of Northeast Ohio may be worthy of our attention, and bringing experts to our region to advise us is equally important.

Measuring progress on professional development includes tracking the number of conferences or meetings, the number of attendees, and written evaluations of the events.  Evaluations following the conferences may assess how the sharing of knowledge has impacted practices across the region.

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