Stunning Results from College Count$ Research
Highlight the Success of the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative;
Draw Praise from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson;
Serve as a National Model for Other Programs
Thursday, a new study titled College Count$ demonstrates that low-income students who have participated in the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) earn associate degrees or technical certificates at more than double the rate of the general community college population in Arkansas. The findings are especially significant considering that students who participate in CPI must qualify for public assistance, live at 250 percent or less of the poverty level and support a family as a custodial parent.
Thursday’s findings are the first phase of research from College Count$, a joint research project established in April of 2015 by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation to demonstrate the potential for CPI to break the cycle of poverty and provide a return on investment for participants, their families and the state. The College Count$ study was conducted by Metis Associates, a nationally recognized research firm. Research methods used in the study all comply with the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse guidelines for evidence-based programs.
“As a parent, the Career Pathways program has made going back to school and getting an education possible,” said Jessica Brown, an ASU-Newport education major from Patterson. “Without it, I would not have child care to allow me to go back to school. That is the most important part because you can’t do anything unless your baby is taken care of. The staff at ASUN is eager to help in any way they know how. Any time you have a problem, you can talk to them and they will try their best to resolve it.”
“Jessica came into our office after finding the Career Pathways program online,” said Dr. Penny Logan, Director of Career Pathways at ASUN. “We talked and I told her that there was a requirement of 12 hours of employability training, which is designed to help the students prepare resumes and job applications, and brush up on their employment skills. Jessica decided that she wanted to get it done and accomplished that in two days. She came in during terrible weather and on her birthday. She made up her mind that she was going to do this, she did it, and we are really proud of her. Her determination and what she did to get enrolled stands out in my mind.”
Since its inception in 2006, CPI has worked with more than 30,000 students at 25 community college and university technical centers across the state. Fifty-two percent of students who participated in the CPI program from 2006 to 2013 have completed at least one associate degrees or technical certificate, compared to only 24 percent of general non-CPI community college students from across Arkansas enrolled in those same academic years, according to statistics from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE).
“Normally, the Career Pathways program is designed for students who are entering one of our workforce development programs such as nursing or welding, and in the past we have not been able to fund students such as Jessica who wanted to study education,” added Logan. “But the state has offered waivers that allows us to include up to ten percent of our students who wish to study programs like education, liberal arts or criminal justice. This allows us serve approximately 15 additional students who are not necessarily on the workforce development track.”
Additionally, the College Count$ results show that CPI students outperform Community College students nationally. According to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 39 percent of students nationwide enrolled at a two-year public college in 2008 completed an associate degree or certificate by 2014. In comparison, 62 percent of CPI students who enrolled at an Arkansas community college in 2008 completed at least one degree or certificate by 2013 – a rate more than 50 percent higher than the national average for the community college student body.
CPI’s unique approach provides students with extensive personalized support throughout their college experience – such as tutoring, mentoring, childcare assistance or gas cards – to address the specific barriers that could otherwise stand in the way of graduation. Students receive training for high demand jobs in their communities, which greatly increases their chances of employment. To maintain eligibility for CPI services, students must continue enrollment in job training activities and communicate regularly with CPI staff.
In addition to impressive academic achievements, CPI participants also experienced a boost in wages. According to Unemployment Insurance Wage data across all industries, the class of 2009 earned on average $2,562 more per year, the class of 2010 $2,700, and the class 2011 $3,112 more in wages in the first twelve months after exiting college than their matched comparison group from the TANF population who did not participate in CPI.
“The Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative is a nonpartisan program that has generated real returns for our state’s economy. It trains Arkansans for in-demand jobs, and successfully moves individuals from welfare to work. Everyone wins with this highly effective program,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
“We have a tremendous success story in Arkansas: the Career Pathways Initiative has stimulated job and wage growth while helping some of the most disadvantaged students,” said Arkansas State Senator Keith Ingram. “If, as a state, we are serious about improving career prospects for low income families, we need more programs with proven results like the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative. This is the kind of research that legislators rely on, to prove what’s working."
"Increasing prosperity, educational attainment and economic mobility for our most vulnerable fellow citizens is at the heart of the mission of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation,” said Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “As a nation and as a people we must find ways to bridge the growing income gaps that have left so many of our people behind. These findings leave little doubt that the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative has helped tens of thousands of very low-income parents be successful in college and in finding good employment afterwards. This program is transforming lives."
CPI, administered by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) and the state’s 22 community colleges and three university technical centers, has provided education and training to more than 30,000 low-income Arkansans since 2006, helping them acquire degrees and/or certificates to obtain and hold jobs in selected high-demand and high-wage industries. Funds for the program comes from the federal Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF) appropriations administered through the state Department of Workforce Services.
College Count$ is currently seeking funding for the next phase of research to measure the return on investment (ROI) to the state generated as a result of expanded employment, increased tax revenues and a decline in the need for public assistance. Researchers also want to explore whether success in educational attainment contributes to improved economic mobility, and to further examine which case management or financial supports provided to CPI participants seem to be correlated to the greater educational success, particularly in relation to success in remedial courses at the community college. The findings may have significant impact on how community colleges can better improve completion rates and ensure academic success for of all students.
About College Count$
College Count$ is an external evaluation measuring what student success, social impacts, or economic benefits result to the individual and the state from an investment of federal Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF) dollars into the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative (CPI). Using rigorous research techniques, the study compares income, education, and employment outcomes of CPI participants with non-participants – to determine whether the program is successfully lifting Arkansas families out of poverty and/or providing a return on investment to the state.
About Metis Associates
Metis Associates, a national research and consulting firm headquartered in New York City, brings over 35 years of experience in evaluation, information technology, and grant development to its work with a wide range of organizations committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of children, families, and communities. We work closely with our clients, so that together we can strengthen their capacity to carry out their missions, make better decisions, and deliver more effective services. Metis Associates, an employee-owned corporation, is based in New York City with offices in Atlanta; Oakland, Calif.; and Philadelphia.
Arkansas State University-Newport is a degree granting community college with campuses in Jonesboro, Marked Tree and Newport, Arkansas. It is a part of the Arkansas State University System. ASUN is one of the state’s fastest-growing community colleges, with a Fall 2015 enrollment of over 2,600 students. Established as a stand-alone, two-year college in 2001, our mission is to provide accessible, affordable, quality education that transforms the lives of our students, enriches our communities and strengthens our regional economy. ASUN’s vision is to be the driving force that revitalizes the Delta and restores the American Dream to the communities we serve.
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