Building Pathways to Success for Low-Skill Adult Students: Lessons for Community College Policy and Practice From a Longitudinal Student Tracking Study
According to the U.S. Census (2000), 42 percent of adults in the United States between the ages of 25 and 64 have no more than a high school education (authors’ calculations). Unfortunately, however, most new jobs and the vast majority of jobs that pay wages sufficient to support a family require at least some education beyond high school (Carnevale and Derochers, 2003), and low educational attainment is associated with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Community colleges are an important entry point to postsecondary education for adults with no previous college education or even a high school diploma. In Fall 2002, for example, adults between the ages of 25 and 64 represented 35 percent of full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollments at two-year public colleges, compared with only 15 percent of FTE undergraduate enrollments at four-year public institutions (authors’ calculations, based on U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Moreover, more than two-thirds of the community college students who entered postsecondary education at age 25 or older were low income (authors’ calculations based on “Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study” [BPS:96/01], 2003) The potential of community colleges to serve as a “pathway” for lowskill adults to college and career-path employment, therefore, is evident. Across the nation, several major projects are underway whose goal is to develop policies and practices supportive of this role. Funded by national foundations, these initiatives include the Ford Foundation’s Bridges to Opportunity initiative and the National Governor’s Association’s Pathways to Advancement project, funded by Lumina Foundation for Education.
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