Performance Improvement 2007. What Lessons Can Be Learned from Evaluating a Community College Approach Designed to Improve Employment Prospects of Welfare Recipients Already in the Workforce?



This demonstration project tested the impact of a particular education program intended to improve the job prospects of welfare recipients who worked at least twenty hours each week. The education program provided the welfare recipients had been designed to meet their special needs for flexible schedules for an employed population of recipients and for remedial education. Those participating in the program were expected to maintain their employment at a level of at least 20 hours per week. The education program and evaluation was conducted in Riverside, California. It was designed by and implemented on the campus of Riverside Community College. The core pieces of the program, lasting twenty-four weeks, consisted of classes in English, math, reading , office computer software, and career guidance. The core courses emphasized basic communication and computer skills critical for work. After graduating from the core program, students were encouraged to enroll in a variety of courses at the Riverside Community College designed to help them enter or advance in specific careers. Evaluation of the program was carried out by randomly assigning eligible recipients who were interested in the program to either a treatment or a control group. Only subjects in the treatment group could receive the core training. Recipients in the control group were encouraged to pursue some other form of education or training.

Recruiting students and keeping them in the program proved to be very difficult. Those in the treatment group participated more in education and training than those in the control group. The treatment group earned more college credits. However, a large percentage of those in the treatment group either did not show up after enrolling, or if they did, failed to complete the core program. Of those that did complete the core program, virtually none enrolled in the courses aimed at specific jobs that were to follow it. The program did not produce better economic or welfare outcomes. Rather, outcomes were less favorable for treatment than for control group members. For each of the three years after assignment to the treatment group, there was a statistically significant but negative impact on earnings. These participants earned less and received more welfare benefits than the control group members, though for welfare benefits the difference was statistically significant in only the third year. However, this program tested only one particular education initiative aimed at improving the jobs prospects of recipients already in the work force. Whether other approaches might work better would need to be the subject of further studies.

Report Title: College as a Job Advancement Strategy: Final Report on the New Visions Self-Sufficiency and Lifelong Learning Project
Agency Sponsor: ACF, Administration on Children and Families
Federal Contact: Sternbach, Leonard, 415-437-7671
Performer: Abt Associates Inc.; Cambridge, MA
PIC ID: 8275

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