Accelerating opportunity for low-skilled students

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

The final impact report for the Accelerating Opportunity initiative reveals more credentials and more earning power.  

The Accelerating Opportunity (AO) initiative is designed to transform how states work with their adult education programs and community colleges to provide training for underprepared adult learners. AO career pathway programs enable more low-income adults to complete postsecondary credentials for in-demand jobs by giving them an opportunity to enroll in career and technical education courses while completing high school equivalency programs.

The final impact report was released yesterday. It finds that the initiative, launched in 2011 by Jobs for the Future (JFF), was a success at community colleges in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana. Students who could not otherwise attend college courses were able to earn college credits and credentials.

There were about 4,300 AO participants and they came from all walks of life. Participants earned more than 79,000 college credits and nearly 6,800 college credentials. The likelihood of AO students earning a college credential over the matched comparison groups by between 11 and 20 percentage points. This represented an increase of 19 percent in Kansas, 35 percent in Illinois, 133 percent in Kentucky, and 622 percent in Louisiana.

“The AO model is a promising approach to helping students with low basic skills, and we now have key findings and data from four very different states on how to best utilize resources to help these students earn credentials and advance into the labor market, achievements that were not well within reach before AO,” JFF President & CEO Maria Flynn said in a release.

AO students’ employment rates increased in Kansas, Kentucky, and Illinois.  In Kansas, employment gains reached 33 percent for AO students over similar students in the comparison group at two years after enrollment. AO participants saw increased quarterly earnings of $1,188 over the comparison group. And in Kentucky, AO students reached a gain of 43 percent over the average comparison group earnings. That’s an increase averaging $855 per quarter.

“The findings of our final impact report illustrate that AO accomplished its mission of addressing a major challenge faced in the United States, which is too many adults have low basic skills and few prospects to earn a living wage,” said Barbara Endel, JFF senior director and AO co-lead.

AO was developed using the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) model from Washington State. The unique model increases training opportunities to low-skilled students, introducing team teaching, and linking integrated career pathways to the needs of employers and industry.

The report, released by the Urban Institute, with its partner George Washington University, is available for download online.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.