Presents findings from a cost-benefit analysis that uses quasi-experimental methods to estimate the social and student-level returns of a career technical education initiative conducted at 32 community and technical colleges in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

“Accelerating Opportunity (AO) was an initiative to help adults with low basic skills earn industry-recognized credentials in high-growth occupations and succeed in the labor market. AO offered low-skill students, regardless of whether they had a high school credential, the opportunity to enroll in career and technical education (CTE) pathways at two-year colleges without the usual prerequisites….The [authors] conducted a mixed-methods evaluation to document AO implementation, estimate its impacts on participants’ education and employment outcomes, and assess whether the effort yielded greater benefits than costs over time.

This report discusses the findings of the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of AO in the four evaluation states: Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana. It compares the value of the benefits associated with AO—principally labor market benefits—with the value of the costs of the program. The benefits of AO are estimated using standard quasi-experimental methods….The costs of the program were collected in a cost survey sent out to participating colleges that were running AO for all three program years and from grant reporting and follow-up discussions with state offices….

The report…answers two distinct research questions:

  1. What is the dollar value of the net student benefit of AO?
  2. What is the dollar value of the net social benefit of AO?” (p.1-2).

“The CBA considers two different perspectives: (1) the ‘social perspective,’ which incorporates the costs and benefits experienced by all members of society; and (2) the ‘student perspective’, which considers costs and benefits from the perspective of the student. Social costs include college resource expenditures on AO, supports provided by colleges to AO students, and state administrative and oversight costs. Social benefits consist of the earnings gains of AO participants relative to similar students who did not participate in AO. Student costs are their actual expenditures as well as any forgone earnings” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author)