Some New(ish) Federal Adult Education Data to Chew On

UPDATED 9/22/14: The first chart below was the wrong chart, although this didn’t make any difference in terms of the point I was trying to make about total enrollment.

While preparing for a panel discussion tomorrow, I was reviewing the latest National Reporting System data on adult learners served by Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)—now reauthorized as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

I haven’t had a chance to update the “Primer” page on this site in a while. One of the things I need to update is the “Participants by Program Type” table, which also includes the total number of adults served. We now have data for the 2012-13 program year. This may not be that new—I just hadn’t had a chance to look to see if had been updated. Anyway, the numbers are not good:

2013-14 NRS Enrollment Data

Source: Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, National Reporting System

You can see from this table that overall enrollment numbers are down once again, from 1.8 million to 1.7 million, a drop of almost 111,000 people. This is (or should be) really distressing, and again raises the question: will the new WIOA legislation do anything to stem the decline in adult education enrollment that has been occurring over the last several years? A lot of this decline has to do with funding, and the funding picture for WIOA is not good. (I realize that some of this enrollment could have been picked up by private, non-federally funded programs or via self-study, but I know of no data to support that. But I strongly suspect that enrollment in privately funded programs is not rising enough to offset the decline in WIA Title II enrollment.)

Here’s another interesting piece of data that is important to keep in mind when discussing the additional emphasis on employment skills in WIOA:

NRS Labor Market 2012-13

Source: Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, National Reporting System

As you can see from this table, during the most recent program year, 2012-13, almost a third of all adults participating in WIA Title II were not in the labor force. We need to know more about this population. Do we? Can anyone point me to a source? I don’t know, for example, how many of them are likely to be permanently out of the labor force. Or how many have simply given up (and of those who have given up, to what extent they identify skills issues as being the reason why). I know that during this same program year, about 60,000+ of adult learners were served over the age of 60, and presumably a lot of those folks are out of the workforce for good. Anyway, we likely need a lot of additional research here. In the meantime, it’s important to bear in mind that a significant number of people enrolling in a WIA-funded program are not part of the labor force.