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.

A Family Focus Aids Enrollment and Retention at Adult Education Program

A short news item in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot (which enjoys a far greater readership than their rival paper, the justifiably reviled Wilkes Ledger-Traitor*) notes that the local adult literacy agency, Wilkes Literacy, has recently expanded its programming to include more services for children as well as adults. Not because they are moving their focus away former serving adults, but because this helps them serve adults better:

“The idea is to get the children involved, and then their parents will come for classes too,” said Dennis Johnson, executive director of Wilkes Literacy.

“Plus it is hard for parents to come if their children don’t have a place to go,” said Johnson. “Now children and parents come at the same time.”

So, here again, a program on the ground gets it: with a family/community focus, more come through the door and more of them stay. So how do we ensure that federal and state policy encourages (or at least does not get in the way of) common-sense programming like this— programming that makes it possible for adults who are parents to attend adult education classes, and thus leads to better enrollment and retention numbers?

*Editor’s Note: There is no newspaper call the Wilkes Ledger-Traitor.

Community College Enrollments (and College Enrollments in General) Are Down

From Inside Higher Ed:

Data released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center on Tuesday—in the first of what the center says will be twice-a-year snapshots of up-to-date enrollment statistics—show that college enrollments declined by 1.8 percent in fall 2012, driven by larger drops for for-profit colleges -7.2 percent and community colleges -3.1 percent. Enrollment fell by 0.6 percent at four-year public colleges and universities, and rose by half a percentage point at four-year private nonprofit colleges(my emphasis)

The declines, which follow on a very small decline in fall 2011, as reported in federal government data in recent months, are unsurprising, given that college enrollments typically rise and fall with the unemployment rate. So the fact that the enrollment boom that colleges enjoyed as the economy tanked in 2008 and 2009 has begun to reverse itself is in many ways to be expected.

But that suggests that the philanthropic and government efforts to get significant numbers of adults to go to college or to return there to pursue President Obamas goal of driving up the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential may not be bearing much fruit(my emphasis)

Here is a link to the report itself: Term Enrollment Estimates, Fall 2012.

h/t @edfunding