Policy Development Process
The policy development process includes both state-level policy creation and college translation and application. Since colleges do the critical work of educating students, policy must be both supportive of college efforts, and implemented as intended at the local level. The Policy Development Process Model was developed to serve as a guiding framework for state teams engaged in the difficult task of creating effective policy to support integrated pathways within their colleges. The following section illustrates the model and provides a description of each of the key components.
The community college system office, in partnership with other state agencies and the legislative branch of state government, enacts policy changes to promote the implementation, scale up, and impact of integrated pathways models. Types of policy at this level include legislation, regulatory changes (e.g., by a board of education, system office, or workforce development agency), enforcement of practices, clarification memos or other information sharing on existing policies, large-scale professional development, collaborative efforts (e.g., data sharing agreements; braided funding), and efforts to respond to new strategic goals.
When state-level policy changes are implemented at the institutional level, a translation process takes place in which broad policies are adapted to fit local environments. Effective translation—ensuring that institutional practitioners accurately understand a policy and are able to implement it as intended—is critical to maintaining the integrity of each state’s Accelerating Opportunity policy effort. Mistranslation can occur for many reasons, including: obscure or purposely vague language; informal networks; local autonomy; lack of enforcement; policy conflicts; excessive regulation; and underfunding.
Implementation refers to how and to what degree the college puts state policy into practice. Effective policy must be part of an information feedback loop: states craft policy based on feedback from local institutions, then monitor local implementation to identify further changes. This cyclical relationship is critical to the success of integrated pathway efforts. However, it is not enough to change state policy and monitor its enactment at the local level. Most likely, institutions also will need to change their own local policies to support integrated pathways and help ensure that the college’s cultural norms adjust to better support adult education students. Implementation and institution-level policy changes go hand in hand and often require cross-department collaboration. These changes are often entirely local, but state guidance in terms of best practice or professional development can be beneficial.
Examples of Institution-Level Policy Change to Support Integrated Pathways:
- Success Coaches: The college hires full-time case managers, each of whom provides a single point of contact for all integrated pathways students.
- Student Success Steering Committee: The college establishes a cross-departmental steering committee focused on finding better ways to move students from noncredit to credit and into the workforce.
- Partnership Development: The college reaches out to WIBs, CBOs, and local foundations to develop better on ramps for students, establish cost-sharing agreements, and designate resources to support students along career pathways.
- Access to Benefits: The college develops a comprehensive system for identifying public benefits and steering students to them.
There is no better way to understand the policy environment as it is experienced by college and ABE staff than by asking them directly. JFF recommends that states gather key information on the institutional policy environment (the translation, implementation and local policy components of the model) related to integrated pathways. We recommend doing this by conducting a listening tour that goes to each implementation college.
A policy listening tour, conducted by system-level staff, is built around a series of in-person interviews with institutional staff (and local partners, where applicable) focused on illuminating each college’s policy environment with respect to integrated pathways. They require significant resources to conduct, but we recommend that state teams consider them as they offer an excellent opportunity to understand how state policy is translated at the institutional level.
If that is not feasible, the state team can convene key individuals from all the implementation colleges for a one-time policy “information-gathering” meeting focused on integrated pathways, or reach out via phone interviews or online surveys to gather information. Target college staff might include community college presidents, deans, faculty, and financial aid and student services staff.
Information gathering is central to the process of identifying myths and misinformation. Often, it can be more valuable to clarify a policy than to craft a new one or revise an existing one. However, the state policy team can only identify these inefficiencies by directly engaging local faculty and staff. The state team can also identify the sources of information (e.g., websites, colleagues, documents) utilized by institutional staff when they need clarification on a policy. JFF recommends that state teams engage their colleges not only around state policies but also around federal policy issues, in both cases with an eye for barriers and misinformation.
JFF recommends that state teams utilize the five categories of the Policy Framework to ensure that their information gathering efforts are comprehensive.