Educational Attainment: A Regional Imperative
Profiles in Leadership

Article Jenni Murphy Comstock's MagazineJuly 2019 Issue
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ProjectAttain! will link education to opportunity for adults with incomplete college careers. Jenni Murphy, dean of Sacramento State’s College of Continuing Education, spearheads the new regional initiative for increased educational attainment of working-age adults (ages 25-64) to benefit individuals, their families, regional employers, the economy and the community.

About two-thirds of all jobs currently require postsecondary education. The greater Sacramento region has 340,000 working-age adults who have started but not completed college. Of those, 86,000 are fewer than 15 units from attaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

“These individuals should be encouraged and supported to finish,” Murphy says. “Since most with incomplete college careers are people of color, women and single parents, this is more than an educational imperative — it’s about equity and economic mobility.”

Jenni Murphy at the College of Continuing Education

She says, “In May 2018, business and education leaders, elected officials and community groups came together to highlight the issues and develop strategy. With support from Align Capital Region, we’re using the collective action model to mobilize organizations around this challenge. We’re examining data, regional needs, investigating capacity, and institutional processes or barriers.”

Murphy’s doctoral work focused on the “near completer” population. In the past decade, she’s identified similar efforts across the country and now brings the best strategies to the ProjectAttain! initiative. Pilot projects with community colleges and other four-year institutions aimed at adults closest to achieving degrees begin in the fall. The next efforts focus on credentials and certificates — non-degree programs that lead to careers and livable wages. A project centered on GED attainment for those not in a place to even pursue college or a certificate is also planned.

The goal is 60 percent educational attainment for working-age adults by 2025. “Serving adult learners is an expertise of our college and a passion of mine,” says Murphy, “and I’m eager to support the individuals, institutions and our regional trajectory.”

Everyone benefits when adults achieve their educational goals, from the individual to entire communities.

— Jenni Murphy
Dean, College of Continuing Education