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Legislative Task Force on Higher Education and Career Readiness Lays Groundwork for Upcoming Meetings


(Anchorage, AK) – A legislative Advisory Task Force on Higher Education and Career Readiness, looking into the state’s efforts to improve our education system, wrapped up two days of meetings Friday afternoon with a more clearly defined pathway toward its goals, and laid out a schedule for meetings going forward.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, co-chairs the Task Force with House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski. “I feel like we covered quite a bit of ground, heard from a broad range of perspectives, and have a pretty clear idea of how we should proceed,” Stevens said. “Our goal is to prepare and detail a list of recommendations for the Legislature by next April, as to how we can get more high school students to stay in school, graduate, and be prepared to go on to higher education. We want them to have a realistic vision of how their lives can be so much better if they pursue college, technical training, or some other form of higher learning. It was evident from the presentations that the key is to unlock that vision and get students to make those connections early-on, while they are still in high school or even sooner.”

On Thursday, the task force heard from  Larry LeDoux, Commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development; Barbara Angaiak, NEA-Alaska President; Carl Rose of the Alaska Association of School Boards; Steve Bradshaw, President of the Alaska Council of School Administrators; Mike Andrews, Executive Director of the Alaska Works Partnership; and Donald Handeland, the student representative on the State Board of Education.

Friday meetings included presentations from Diane Barrans from the Alaska Council on Postsecondary Education regarding financial aid; Fred Villa, Associate Vice President for Workforce Programs; Patrick Gamble, President of the University of Alaska; John Lommel, Academic Vice President of the Alaska Christian College; and Peter Finn, Chair, University of Alaska Coalition Student Leaders.

Stevens outlined the task force’s major objectives:

· To compile and analyze existing studies on retaining students in school, on remediation for those who are not ready to advance to higher education, and on increasing graduation rates from colleges and technical programs;

· To identify and recommend best practices and new approaches in programs having success in reducing the need for remedial services and improving career readiness;

· To determine the availability of Internet-based learning and its effectiveness on reducing remediation and improving student success;

· To review graduation and completion rates for the state’s colleges, universities, trade schools and other technical programs;

· To prepare for the Legislature a list of recommendations aimed at improving graduation and retention rates, while addressing and reducing the need for remediation.

The task force will next meet in Fairbanks on September 1-2.

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