Identification and implementation of effective strategies gleaned from work with higher education and workforce organizations across the nation.
DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS AND RESEARCH
Demographic Analysis and Research
Patrick earned his graduate degrees in Sociology and Urban and Public Affairs, where he learned early in his career the importance of understanding and utilizing demographic trends and conditions in the development of sound policy. He utilizes data analyses and research of demographic trends in nearly all of his projects to help ground decision-making in strategic planning, closing equity gaps, measuring student outcomes, and meeting workforce needs.
A path of inquiry for a higher education leader that would rely heavily on demographic research might include:
- Why has our enrollment declined over the past several years?
- Which geographic areas have we historically served – those accounting for the majority of our first-time enrollments?
- How is the population changing in these areas?
- Age (traditional vs. non-traditional)
- Racial and ethnic composition (growing underrepresented populations)
- Family and personal income (affordability)
- Employment opportunities and wages for those with college credentials
- How do we achieve greater access and success among underrepresented students?
- What are the cost implications for doing so?
Sound answers to these types of questions require an in-depth understanding of demographics – and changes and projected changes over time. Patrick uses these types of analyses and research in strategic planning, measuring student progress across all stages of the education pipeline, setting goals and targets for underrepresented populations, and more effectively bridging the gaps between education and workforce and economic development.
Patrick has worked closely with many state agencies and legislative bodies, organizations devoted to workforce and economic development, and higher education institutions at various stages in their strategic planning processes – throughout their entire planning as well as consulting and research support for certain phases of their planning. A vital component of any strategic plan is setting overall goals, identifying metrics that are tracked over time to ensure progress toward meeting the goals, and using reliable data and information throughout the process. The goals should be aspirational, but achievable. And the goals and measures of progress should be clear and well-defined, and grounded in solid data and information.
In order to implement a successful and sustainable strategic plan, it is also imperative to build and foster consensus among the key stakeholders and those providing the services associated with meeting the goals. Patrick has a great deal of experience conducting focus groups and interviews with key constituencies to arrive at a collective consensus around the strategic planning process and its intended goals and outcomes. States and organizations Patrick has worked with in their strategic planning activities include (but not limited to) Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Business Higher Education Council, Texas Higher Education Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and East Tennessee State University.
ADDRESSING EQUITY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION
Addressing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
For decades, the higher education policy community has paid concerted attention to closing the educational attainment gaps between whites and underrepresented minorities. Over this time, the percentages of working-aged adults who earn college degrees among all racial/ethnic populations has slowly but steadily increased. However, disparities between the advantaged and disadvantaged continue to widen. Many experts believe the U.S. has reached an unprecedented time when our society is more dependent than ever on closing the racial and ethnic gaps: spanning the need for social justice, equal opportunity in education and employment, more fair and just healthcare and criminal justice systems, and more effectively meeting changing workforce and economic needs.
In the midst of COVID-19, we have experienced the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on racial and ethnic minorities; not only the challenges they face in achieving equitable healthcare, criminal justice, and economic recovery; but in higher education and workforce opportunities as well. In higher education, populations who are most disadvantaged have much less access to the technology needed to fully participate in the on-line courses that have replaced in-person instruction, need more wrap-around services such as in-person tutoring, mentoring, and career counseling in order to succeed. They are also more likely to attend institutions that are particularly struggling during the pandemic; those that are facing the most financial stress in meeting the needs of students, and providing the technology and resources needed to meet the current changing demands in distance-learning. In this context, the following are examples of research questions that policymakers might wish to address.
- How can higher education policymakers and institutional leaders work more effectively with those interfacing higher education to address the long-standing systemic problem of racial and ethnic injustice? (i.e. stakeholders and leaders in the P-12, adult education, criminal justice, community and economic development, and legislative communities).
- How can higher education policymakers more explicitly implement race-based policy related to student access, success, and completion? To this point, attempts have largely been assumed in policies associated with low-income students, with hopes that racial and ethnic disparities are positively impacted.
- In what ways can the surge in dependence on more advanced technology to deliver the postsecondary experience avoid creating even greater division among advantaged and disadvantaged populations?
Patrick has a wealth of experience researching racial/ethnic gaps in higher education and employment outcomes, and presenting to many audiences the imperative of closing these gaps in order to realize a more just and educated society, and a stronger workforce and economy.
MEASURING STUDENT ACCESS AND SUCCESS
Measuring Student Access and Success
Patrick has spent his entire career working with stakeholders to establish key performance indicators and measure progress toward goals in higher education and workforce development. He has developed and worked on many dashboards across the U.S. that house and display measures of student access and success. This work includes identifying the data sources needed, designing the metrics, and displaying the results in visually appealing ways that impactfully tell the story to policymakers and stakeholders. He has led many of the efforts across the U.S. to more effectively measure the performance associated with each stage of the “education pipeline” – from high school completion, to college-going, to college completion; and the societal, workforce, and economic benefits of improving on the metrics. Examples of this work are woven throughout his work in strategic planning and identifying racial and ethnic inequities. He has extensively done this type of work for higher education organizations in Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee; as well as Lumina Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Governors Association, Complete College America, the Aspen Institute, the Delta Project on College Costs (to list several).
MEETING WORKFORCE AND ECONOMIC NEEDS
Somewhat aside from many of the selective four-year colleges, higher education institutions have been under increasing pressure to prove the value of their college credentials in the workplace and the economy. As we struggle during (and emerge from), the impact of the pandemic there is reason to believe that this will only increase. Along with a changing economy and the large numbers of unemployed and displaced workers seeking new jobs and careers, colleges and universities are likely to be under even more scrutiny to link postsecondary credentials more effectively to meaningful employment. In this context, it is important to be able to identify key workforce shortages, jobs that are growing or projected to grow – and the postsecondary credentials needed to meet this demand.
In nearly all states, the data needed to answer many of the questions associated with education and workforce development exist in silos, with stewards responsible for maintaining and ensuring the accuracy of the data. Many states are scrambling to more effectively link these databases – i.e. higher education, K-12, workforce development, adult education, real-time employment demand data, other government and/or proprietary data sources in order to more accurately tell the story of the state’s (or region’s) workforce and economy, and the personal benefits of achieving certain levels and types of education for certain jobs. Patrick has the experience and knowledge needed to help state organizations break down these silos and build trust among those involved regarding the privacy and security of linking data to address key policy questions, and their collective roles in meeting statewide needs and goals.
- How can we as a policy community more effectively utilize the data available on job openings and projected growth, workforce supply and demand, and the linkages between certain types of postsecondary credentials and jobs? (a tendency has been to drive the data to such detailed levels that result in paralysis when trying to make sound decisions and implement meaningful policy)
- How can higher education policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders build on and expand what they have already learned about more efficient and effective student pathways to credentials of value to students and the workforce, and as students return for re-tooling and training for advancement or new employment opportunities as they emerge?
Patrick has led this type of work in several states and for organizations devoted to workforce and economic development.
It has been rare that “it feels like the right thing to do” and “small-scale” approaches to improving student access and success are sustainable within the institution after philanthropic support goes away. With a rise in philanthropic support for postsecondary education over the past two decades, there has been increased attention and resources paid to policy interventions that are scalable. Early on, many of the programs funded to increase student access, success, and diversity were proven successful but unfortunately were not implemented within postsecondary institutions to the degree needed to continue or expand the efforts once the funds were gone. This has happened for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most notable includes the lack of allocation of (or reallocation of) faculty, staff, and resources within the institution to carry the programs forward beyond the window of philanthropic support. After lessons learned, scalability has grown to be one of the priorities of many funders.
Amidst the unfortunate chaos and tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic and the societal tension growing around social justice and racial/ethnic inequality, an opportunity seemingly exists to better address these issues because many college and university leaders are seeking ways to do things differently, at scale, and more creatively within the budgetary confines of their institution. The primary sources of unrestricted resources within postsecondary institutions (namely state, local, and tuition and fee revenues) are perhaps more strained now than ever. Philanthropy also plays an important role in helping to promote and foster changes that improve student access, success, and diversity in ways that also address institutional financial viability. Research questions that need to be addressed might include:
- How can higher education policymakers, thought leaders, and philanthropic organizations, etc. more effectively address institutional financial viability when supporting and helping to implement efforts to improve student access, success, and equity? (unless they do it is awfully difficult to realize the changes we need)
- How and what can we learn from institutions that have addressed this well, as well as from those that have tried and failed? (many great ideas are not new ones, but grow from lessons learned)