How to Enable Adults without Degrees to Achieve Economic Mobility

Economic mobility is out of reach for too many Americans, particularly those without a postsecondary credential, including young adults whose pathways to and through postsecondary education were disrupted by COVID-19 to adults who previously stopped out and are under- or unemployed, or never enrolled in the first place. While national levels of educational attainment have been steadily rising, this still falls short of the anticipated long-term demand for degrees and credentials. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 89 percent of net new jobs over the next decade will be in occupations that typically require a postsecondary credential. Yet today, there are 40 million Americans who have some college credit but no degree.

City leaders are uniquely positioned to create structural changes that will enable adults to pathways to compete credentials and attain higher quality jobs. Creating stronger ecosystems of support for adult students ensures long-term family and community economic security.

A New Opportunity

NLC, in partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), has launched a new Municipal Action Cohort: Connecting Adults to Postsecondary and Workforce Success. This collaboration brings together NLC’s decades-long history of hands-on experience and CAEL’s postsecondary expertise to provide municipal leaders timely technical assistance, assessment, peer learning, and resources to strengthen pathways to postsecondary and workforce success.

The Municipal Action Cohort will engage four cities through 2024 and 2025 to connect adults with postsecondary educational opportunities that lead to good jobs – particularly those with some college and who may be close to a terminal credential.

Cities will receive technical assistance to:

  • Strengthen collaboration between city leaders, postsecondary, and workforce partners.
  • Better understand the needs and desires of potential adult students and the barriers they are facing or may have previously faced during prior postsecondary experiences.
  • Develop action plans to re-engage adult learners and support students through completion of a credential.
  • Access the latest data on in-demand skills and opportunity occupations in their community, to ensure that institutions recruit adult students for education and training relevant to jobs available in their local labor markets.
  • Create innovative programs, policies, and practices to successfully bring adults back into postsecondary education settings that provide upward economic mobility.
  • Establish a stronger city-led, cross-sector ecosystem of support for adult college students, including their critical basic needs.
  • Pioneer inventive and scalable solutions to build toward a national movement of supporting postsecondary success and strengthening communities and economies.

NLC welcomes proposals from all cities in California, Florida, Michigan, and Texas willing to work closely with postsecondary institutions, workforce development boards, community-based organizations, and other cross-sector partners to implement inventive programs, services, and policies to enable adults on the path to postsecondary and workforce success.

Register for the Info Session

Interested to learn more? Register for the info session webinar on December 11th at 2 pm to learn more about how joining this cohort could help residents in your city as well as to get your questions answered about the RFP process.

For more information about this initiative, please contact the Education and Expanded Learning team at

About the Author

Tashfia Hasan

About the Author

Tashfia Hasan is a Senior Specialist, Postsecondary and Workforce Success at the National League of Cities.