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Adult Basic Education - Workforce Diplomas

January 20, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Brittany Whitley and Dr. Alan Moss

Approximately 9.3% of Missourians over the age of twenty-five do not have a high school diploma or equivalency. Higher educational attainment is often associated with more job opportunities, higher income and reduced poverty. States also benefit from increased tax revenue and reduced spending on crime, healthcare and welfare programs. In 2017, HB 93 authorized a state-approved nonprofit to open and operate four adult high schools across the state to help Missourians over the age of 21 finish their high school diplomas and obtain industry-recognized credentials. House Bill 2325 and SB 957 propose related versions of a performance-funded Workforce Diploma Program for Missourians over the age of 21 who have not yet obtained a high school diploma. Approved adult education providers would only be paid when students achieve academic (e.g., high school diploma) and employability (e.g., industry-recognized credentials) milestones. Data reporting and program evaluation in states with workforce diploma programs will be central to identifying successes and addressing barriers to meeting student and workforce needs. 

Highlights 

  • Institutionalized (e.g., correctional institution, nursing home) and nonwhite Missourians are most likely to lack a high school diploma or equivalency.
  • There is a demand for “middle skills” jobs in Missouri, which require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's degree.
  • The Workforce Diploma Programs proposed in HB 2325 and SB 957 are substantially similar to programs in at least five states (CO, IN, KS, MI, OH). While not identical to the workforce diploma, several other states and schools use other types of integrated adult education-workforce programs (e.g., GED Bridge to College).
  • Performance-based funding ensures that programs deliver specified outcomes, but may also cause some providers to limit the enrollment of “high-risk” (e.g., limited literacy) students to keep graduation rates high.

Limitations 

  • Most workforce diploma programs in the United States have been implemented within the last five years and their reporting requirements vary, making it difficult to measure how they directly impact the number of credentials awarded and workforce needs filled.
  • Without information about those who enroll in and complete adult education programs (and if/how this changes), it is difficult to predict who will participate and benefit most from a workforce diploma program.

This Note has been updated. You can access the original version (published February 2021) here.

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