© Copyright 2004 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning

Occasional Paper No. 1

Evaluation of Federal Training & Education Programs

October 2004



A Comparison of Employment and Enrollment 
Outcomes Based on Temporary Assistance for 
Needy Families Eligibility

by: Mark A. Harris, Ph.D., Sociologist, Research & Planning; Bev Potter and Lisa Mixer, Co-Directors of Casper College ABE/GED Center; and Rick Burgin, M.S., Occupational & Adult Education Specialist, Casper College.

TANF eligible participants progressing in their educational level but with fewer than 12 hours of program participation experience employment and enrollment difficulties at a higher rate than participants who are not TANF eligible. A smaller percentage of TANF eligible participants experienced negative outcomes after GED completion than TANF ineligible participants.

The Casper College ABE/GED Center provides instruction in Adult Basic Education (ABE), General Educational Development (GED), English as a Second Language (ESL), U.S. citizenship, employability skills, and educational assessment services to individuals 16 and older who are out of school. The overall objective of these services is to help improve academic functioning and increase employability skills. The typical goal of Casper College ABE/GED participants is to earn their GED certificate.

The Casper College ABE/GED programís primary funding source originates from the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act within the Workforce Investment Act ( Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, 1998). Outcome reporting for this funding source follows National Reporting System (NRS) guidelines (National Reporting System, 2001). The U.S. Department of Education uses the outcome results provided by the NRS to justify federal investment in adult education programs. The core outcome measures focus on employment acquisition and retention, educational gain, placement in postsecondary education or training, and receipt of a secondary diploma or GED. 

The other major funding source for the Casper College ABE/GED program is a grant from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Education and Training for Self-Sufficiency (ETSS; Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, 1996). Funding from this source targets families who earn less than 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline ($34,040 for a family of four in 2003; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). An ETSS grant provides funding to the Casper College ABE/GED program for extended hours, additional sites, and support to accommodate this targeted population. The performance goals of TANF are closely aligned with the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (1998).

Study Purpose

Past research indicates that high school graduates have substantially lower unemployment rates than those with only some high school education (Cantu, 2003). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2003 unemployment rate for persons 25 years and older with less than a high school diploma or GED was 8.8 percent compared to 5.5 percent for persons with a high school diploma or GED, 4.8 percent for persons with some college, and 3.1 percent for persons with a Bachelorís degree or higher (2003). Completion of a GED also increases the probability of employment for those without a high school diploma (Tyler, n.d.). The data provide evidence that educational attainment is strongly associated with employment. In addition to increased employment, another indicator of program success is whether participants become enrolled in postsecondary education subsequent to ABE/GED involvement. 

The purpose of this study is to determine whether Casper College ABE/GED participants who are eligible for TANF have employment and postsecondary enrollment outcomes similar to those who are not eligible for TANF at various levels of program progression, including the completion of a GED. 

Desired Outcome from the Study 

The desired outcome of this study was two-fold. The Casper College ABE/GED Center needed to determine program outcomes for stakeholders and to use the information gained from the study to evaluate program strengths and difficulties, which will enhance efforts to retain participants, refine instructional methodologies, and establish future performance goals.

Study Methods

In the past, ABE/GED staff relied upon telephone interviews to determine program outcomes for Casper College ABE/GED participants. Unfortunately, telephone interviews have historically resulted in low response rates, which prevent accurate outcome evaluations.

To better gauge whether the program has reached desired outcome goals, Casper College ABE/GED administrators contracted with Research & Planning (R&P) to merge ABE/GED participant data with Wage Records employment data and Casper College postsecondary enrollment data to determine the employment and postsecondary enrollment outcomes of the 581 ABE/GED participants from program year 2001-2002. Postsecondary data available to R&P contain all students enrolled in postsecondary education at Casper College. Wage Records data represent a census of nearly all persons employed in the state ( Gosar, 1995).

The following outcome categories for TANF eligible and TANF ineligible participants were developed by Casper Collegeís ABE/GED co-directors and staff:


For purposes of this research, the TANF eligible group is defined as ABE/GED participants whose family income did not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. The other group (TANF ineligible) is composed of ABE/GED participants who did not meet TANF eligibility criteria. 

ABE/GED participants in correctional programs were excluded from the analysis because they do not have the same ability to pursue educational or employment goals as the general ABE/GED population. English as a Second Language participants were also removed. 

Results

The Table presents outcome data for all program year 2001-2002 participants in order of typical program progression (i.e., from ABE/GED participants with minimal program contact to those who completed their GED).

All ABE/GED Participants

Approximately one-third (186) of the 581 program year 2001-2002 ABE/GED participants were TANF eligible at time of enrollment (see Figure 1). Overall, employment and enrollment outcomes were very similar for ABE/GED participants who were TANF eligible and those who were TANF ineligible. Specifically, 55.4 percent of TANF eligible participants and 54.2 percent of TANF ineligible participants experienced a positive employment or enrollment outcome (see Figure 2). 

ABE/GED Participants With Minimal Program Contact

Participants with minimal program contact are those who exited the program prior to assessment to determine educational level (most in this category had fewer than four hours of program participation). Eighty-eight participants (15.1%) of all participants had minimal program contact (see Figure 3). A higher percentage of TANF eligible participants (20.4%) had minimal program contact compared to TANF ineligible participants (12.7%) in program year 2001-2002 (see Figure 4).

ABE/GED Participants Progressing Within Educational Level With Less Than 12 Hours of Program Participation

Participants progressing in an educational level (Murray, 2004) that have less than 12 hours of program participation comprise the largest segment of program year 2001-2002 participants (254 or 43.7%; see Figure 3). Although the number of TANF eligible participants (77) and TANF ineligible participants (177) seems vastly different (see Table), the percentages of TANF eligible and TANF ineligible participants in this category are within 3.4 percentage points of each other (41.4% and 44.8%, respectively). However, the data indicate that TANF eligible participants progressing in their educational level but with fewer than 12 hours of program participation experience employment and enrollment difficulties at a higher rate than participants who are TANF ineligible (57.1% compared to 48.0%; see Figure 5).

ABE/GED Participants Progressing Within Educational Level With At Least 12 Hours of Program Participation

Fifty-three program participants (9.1%) progressed within their educational level and had at least 12 hours of program participation (see Figure 3). About an equal percentage of TANF eligible and TANF ineligible participants (52.6% and 50.0%, respectively) in this category experienced a positive employment or enrollment outcome (see Figure 6). 

ABE/GED Participants Completing or Increasing One Educational Level

Few (21 or 3.6%) of the participants completed or increased one educational level (see Figure 3). This excludes the 165 participants who had already earned their GED (see Table). Because of the small number of participants in this category, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the nature of the employment or enrollment outcomes among TANF eligible and TANF ineligible participants. However, the marginal totals seem to indicate that a higher percentage of participants who completed or increased at least one educational level had at least a positive employment or enrollment outcome (71.4%) in comparison to participants who progressed within their educational level and had at least 12 hours of participation (50.1%).

ABE/GED Participants Completing GED

GED completion is the primary goal of most Casper College ABE/GED participants. Of the 581 ABE/GED participants, 165 or 28.4 percent completed their GED (see Figure 3). Results indicate that GED completion appears effective in reducing the number of participants with negative outcomes. More than half of all GED recipients (63.6%) experienced a positive employment or enrollment outcome during the year after GED completion (see Table). Additionally, the effect of obtaining a GED on reducing the number of participants with negative outcomes appears to be even stronger among TANF eligible participants. Specifically, a smaller percentage of TANF eligible participants (27.7%) experienced negative outcomes after GED completion than TANF ineligible participants (39.8%; see Figure 7).

Conclusions

According to results presented in this study, Casper College ABE program participation appears to assist TANF eligible participants in achieving positive employment and enrollment outcomes relative to participants who are TANF ineligible. The effect appears to be particularly strong among TANF eligible participants who have earned their GED. 

Participation in the initial stages (i.e., those making progress within an education level but accumulating less than 12 hours of participation) appears to be associated with negative outcomes (most likely employment difficulty at this stage) among TANF eligible participants. The rigors of program participation may necessitate a temporary withdrawal from or reduction in labor market activity for TANF eligible participants. TANF eligible participants may have less family and social network support to balance the requirements of work and school. This may also explain why TANF eligible participants are more likely to experience minimal program contact.

Implications and Future Research

Positive benefits for TANF eligible participants appear to accrue with more ABE/GED program contact. Additional monetary and staff resources devoted to the retention of TANF eligible participants may reduce the number who leave the program with only minimal contact. Casper College ABE/GED staff desire to test whether monetary incentives may increase the length of time that TANF eligible participants remain in the program. 

Another potential research question is whether TANF eligible participants who participate in ABE/GED programs are less likely to become TANF recipients (or spend less time on TANF) than those who do not participate in ABE/GED programs. The empirical demonstration of saving TANF dollars would represent one solid justification for the continuation or expansion of TANF-funded ABE/GED participation. The positive employment and enrollment outcomes shown for TANF eligible participants in the current study, particularly among those who received their GED, increase participantsí self-sufficiency, decreasing their need for TANF assistance. Merging ABE/GED and Department of Family Services administrative data would allow us to definitively answer these additional questions. 

References

Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998, WIA--Pub. L. No. 105-220. Retrieved March 12, 2004, from http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.R.1385:

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2003). Table A-4. Labor force status of the civilian population 25 years and over by educational attainment [Data file]. Retrieved February 13, 2004, from http://stats.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cpsatab4.htm 

Cantu, R. (2003). What is the value of an education? Texas Labor Market Review. Retrieved February 13, 2004, from http://www.tracer2.com/admin/uploadedpublications/1042_tlmr0312art.pdf

Gosar, W. M. (1995, May). Wyoming unemployment insurance wage records summary statistics: A new way to look at Wyoming. Wyoming Labor Force Trends. Retrieved February 13, 2004, from http://doe.state.wy.us/lmi/0595/0595a2.htm

Murray, S. (2004, March). Adult Basic Education (ABE) program educational functioning levels. Wyoming Labor Force Trends. Retrieved July 16, 2004, from http://doe.state.wy.us/lmi/0304/a2.htm

National Reporting System for Adult Education. (2001). Measures and methods for the national reporting system for adult education: Implementation guidelines. Retrieved February 13, 2004, from http://www.nrsweb.org/reports/implement.pdf

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-193. Retrieved March 12, 2004, from http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c104:H.R.3734:

Tyler, J. H. (n.d.). So you want a GED? Estimating the impact of the GED on the earnings of dropouts who seek the credential. NASCALL Research Brief. Retrieved February 13, 2004, from http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~ncsall/research/brief_tyler2.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2003, February 7). 2003 
HHS poverty guidelines. Retrieved July 8, 2003, from http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/03poverty.htm

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