New Aspen Institute Report: “Helping Adult Learners Navigate Community College and the Labor Market”

After all that depressing news about college in my last post, the least I can do is share this new report, Helping Adult Learners Navigate Community College and the Labor Market, released by the Aspen Institute’s Workforce Strategies Initiative back in February— although I just got a notice about it today.

The report looks at the challenges adult learners face “as they attempt to enter community college, persist to completing a certificate or degree, and successfully transition to employment,” and is designed to assist workforce development leaders, community colleges, and workforce investment boards help adult learners navigate both  the community college campus and the labor market.

Decades-Long Decline in Federal Spending on Job Training and Workforce Development

In a recent article for the Center for American Progress, Joy Moses lists 10 reasons why cutting poverty programs to address the government’s fiscal issues is a bad idea. Reason number three is that spending on many individual programs is “stagnating or declining.” She cites workforce and job training programs as a prime example:

Chart  from "Top 10 Reasons Why Cutting Poverty Programs to Resolve the Fiscal Showdown Is a Bad Idea"

Source: Joy Moses, “Top 10 Reasons Why Cutting Poverty Programs to Resolve the Fiscal Showdown Is a Bad Idea”

I went and looked at the OMB spreadsheet she cites as a source and it looks like those numbers make sense, although I wonder if there is a bit of an apple/oranges problem when comparing federal job programs from 1972 with 2012. I’m also not sure why she compares the 2007 investment with 1972’s expenditure, when it looks like job training spending spiked even higher in the late 70s-1980. (I assume there is a good reason, I just don’t know what it is.) But none of that takes away from her overall point, which should be helpful to workforce/job training advocates.

One slightly more substantive quibble: I’m not sure that I’d describe federal job training as strictly a “poverty program,” since these services are not exclusively aimed at people living in poverty. In fact, as others have pointed out, low-income people currently represent only about half of those receiving job training or related services with federal adult employment and training funding, despite their increased rates of unemployment. It would be useful (and possibly make her argument even stronger) to look at whether the number of low-income individuals receiving federally funded job training and related services has declined in the same proportion as the overall decline in funding.