Evaluates the impact of the Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative, a statewide initiative funded from 2012 to 2016 through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training grant that focused on preparing veterans and underemployed, unemployed, or dislocated workers for careers in new or revised certificate and associate programs for the health and life science fields.

“The purpose of the [Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative] HL-SCI, grant is to prepare veterans; trade adjustment assistance (TAA)–eligible workers (that is, those displaced by foreign trade); and dislocated, unemployed, and underemployed workers for high-paying, in-demand careers in health and life science fields.

Through the initiative, a consortium of five community colleges, the online Charter Oak State College, and Eastern Connecticut State University developed new certificate and associate’s degree programs, revised existing programs, and put in place other strategies to support student success. The new and revised programs were developed with input from industry partners to ensure that the programs align with labor market demands. Grant funding and program development began in October 2012, while program implementation began in spring 2013 and continued through the end of March 2016” (p.1).

This evaluation consisted of an implementation and an impact evaluation. The following key research questions guided the impact evaluation:

“1. (College persistence) Do HL-SCI participants persist in their colleges at higher rates than students who enrolled in similar programs prior to the implementation of the intervention?

2. (Credential completion) Do HL-SCI participants complete certificate or degree programs at a higher rate than students who enrolled in similar programs prior to the implementation of the intervention?

3. (Credit accumulation) Do HL-SCI participants complete more credits than students who enrolled in similar programs prior to the implementation of the intervention?” (p.ii).

To answer these questions, the evaluators “…employed a quasi-experimental approach to compare the outcomes of HL-SCI participants with those of participants in the same or similar programs at their colleges prior to the start of the grant….The outcomes for the two groups were compared after one and two years of program participation” (p.ii).

“The evaluation team also conducted a quantitative descriptive analysis that assessed Consortium performance on nine student outcome goals (such as the number of participants completing a TAACCCT-funded program of study) using data from HLSCI annual reports to the U.S. Department of Labor” (p.ii-iii).

 (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Key implementation findings of the HL-SCI initiative include: • “Program enrollment and recruitment. Most students learned about their programs independently, although those who did learn about their programs from faculty or staff members at the college found this input to be very influential in their decision to enroll. • Booster modules. Most students who had taken booster modules found them useful because they provided another method through which to learn course material. • Online and hybrid courses. Most participants preferred in-person courses to online and hybrid formats because in-person courses allow for more interaction between students and professors. Some students appreciated online courses because they were convenient and allowed students to complete content at their own pace. • Prior learning assessments (PLA). Most students believed that the PLA process was easy to understand, they received the right amount of credit, and they would be able to complete their programs more quickly. • Employment and placement services. Students liked that clinical experiences were hands-on and allowed them to apply what they had learned in the classroom” (p.iii-iv). “Key findings from the impact evaluation include: • HL-SCI students and comparison students performed similarly on all outcomes [including college persistence]” (p.iv). • “Results for the intervention group also tended to be similar by program category, except that HL-SCI students in science programs completed approximately one to two courses fewer than HL-SCI students in all programs after two years of program enrollment. • HL-SCI participants who received PLA credit were more likely to complete a credential within one or two years than participants without PLA credits. • HL-SCI participants who received PLA credits were less likely to persist after the first year than participants without PLA credits” (p.iv-v). “[The evaluators] also examined course completion and performance outcomes for the booster module and online and hybrid course HL-SCI components….Key findings include: • There were no differences in course completion rates, which were greater than 90 percent before and after the HL-SCI component. • There is some evidence that course grades were higher for students in online and hybrid courses than for students enrolled in the same course in traditional in-person format” (p.v). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)