Risk Factors for College Success: Insights from Adults in Nine Career Pathways Programs
Author(s): Fein, David.
Organizational Author(s): Abt Associates
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Resource Availability: Publicly available
Presents demographic characteristics of low-income adults enrolled in one of the nine Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education programs included in a random assignment evaluation. The evaluation studies the impact of each pathway on education and employment-related outcomes, and analyzes the relationship between participant characteristics and education outcomes for a subgroup of adults in the control group.
“With career pathways programs for low-income adults rapidly expanding, little is known about the populations they serve. This brief analyzes characteristics and outcomes for [9,258] adults in a sample of nine [career pathway] programs under study in the random assignment…[Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education] PACE…evaluation. Reflecting different logic models and policy environments, the nine samples show significant differences on a series of baseline educational, economic, demographic, and psycho-social factors. The paper [also] analyzes the relationship between these factors and college enrollment and persistence 18 months later for a pooled sub-sample of 3,719 adults in the evaluation’s randomly assigned control group. This group’s experiences illuminate risk factors in the absence of program services and thereby help to assess service needs” (p.1).
For its analyses, “[t]his brief draws on two principal data sources: forms PACE recruits completed just prior to random assignment and college records of enrollments and credentials over the following 18 months. Baseline forms covered an extensive array of education, employment, demographic, psycho-social, and other life experiences” (p.14)
The brief’s “…main findings appear in two … sections—one focusing on characteristics of the nine program target populations at recruitment and a second on the relationship between these characteristics and subsequent college outcomes for participants randomly assigned to control groups in PACE…. The brief’s findings can help address questions such as: what are the risk factors for college enrollment and persistence in a diverse population of low-income adults? What do such factors imply about student needs and intervention strategies? A concluding section discusses implications for program services” (p.1).
Note that this brief precedes a report detailing the early impact findings for each of the nine PACE programs.
(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)
Major Findings & Recommendations
The brief presents the following findings on the characteristics of the low-income adults enrolled in the nine different PACE programs:
•“The programs target various racial and ethnic minorities—one (Carreras en Salud/CES) deliberately, and others by virtue of the geographical areas served. As a result, Hispanics represented virtually the entire sample in two sites (CES in Chicago and VIDA in southeastern Texas) and a majority in a third site (PHC in Tucson). Roughly half of recruits were African American in three programs targeting low-income adults in urban areas with large black populations (HCA, WTAC, and YU)” (p.5).
•“The population recruited by the nine PACE programs differs in important respects from first-time students entering two-year colleges nationwide, based on data from the 2011-2012 academic year” (p.6). For example, “Over half (55 percent) of PACE recruits received some form of food assistance, while only 14 and 2 percent of two-year college students received [aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and [the Women, Infants, and Children program], respectively” (p.7).
•“In sum, programs in the PACE study recruited a sample of adults who were more educationally and economically disadvantaged, and included more racial-ethnic minorities, than either first-time students at community colleges or students with three or more ‘non-traditional’ characteristics at any (two- or four-year) college” (p.7).
The brief finds that the low-income adults enrolled in the control group who did not receive any PACE program services had lower college outcomes overall than the average community college student (p.8). In addition, the study found that prior educational experiences were more strongly associated with college enrollment and success than family income. Specifically, “recruits with higher levels of school attainment at recruitment also were more likely to enroll in and complete college over the 18-month observation period” (p.8).
(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)