Skip to main content

Day Four: Impact of Adult Basic Skills Program Participation – Postsecondary Engagement

Dear Colleagues:

Greetings and welcome to Day Four of our discussion of the research findings from the LSAT, the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning, with Steve Reder.  Today, I would like to begin with the finding from the postsecondary engagement Research Brief:  The Impact of ABS Program Participation on Long-Term Postsecondary Engagement. The central finding of this Research Brief is the robust impact of ABS program participation on engagement in postsecondary education. 

Study participants have high levels of postsecondary aspirations at the start of the study, both those who participated in ABS programs and those who did not:

Individuals (all were without a high school credential) were asked in the first round of interviews (Wave 1 interviews) about their educational aspirations. Two-thirds of the LSAL population (66.9%) indicated they wanted a college degree (either a two-year, four-year, or graduate degree). An even larger group (81.6%) indicated they wanted at least some postsecondary education (a college degree, a certificate, or college courses). Despite this apparent widespread interest in postsecondary education, relatively few individuals had engaged at all in postsecondary education by Wave 6, eight years later.

Here are some of the main findings that Steve highlighted in the webinar:

  • 82% of the study participants were interested in some postsecondary education
  • 28% rate of credit attainment for study participants after 8 years
  • ABS program participation had a substantial impact on postsecondary engagement, not just at the 100+ hour mark
  • very low rates of degree/certification completion
  • other supports apparently needed for postsecondary completion in this population

So, while it looks as though ABS programs serve as an on-ramp to postsecondary education, adult learners have low levels of completion.

Question for STEVE

Steve, I’m curious if the data were/was broken out in terms of type of postsecondary institution and if the graduation rates for the general population at those institutions was examined and, if so, how the rates compared.

Questions for the COMMUNITY

  • What "other supports" are you finding make a difference in moving adult learners toward completion of postsecondary education?  How do you know?
  • What impact to you think free community college may have on adult learner completion?

Cynthia Zafft

Postsecondary Completion Moderator


Cynthia Zafft's picture
One hundred

Here is a reply from Steve to my question earlier today:

Question for Steve:

Steve, I’m curious if the data were/was broken out in terms of type of postsecondary institution and if the graduation rates for the general population at those institutions was examined and, if so, how the rates compared.

Steve's reply:

Thanks, Cynthia.  Good question.  Almost all of the postsecondary engagement was in community college programs (which are also the delivery system for adult ed in Oregon).  I have not yet looked at the overall completion rates in these institutions for the general adult ed population. That would be a good thing to do in future research.  As in most community colleges, I would expect these completion rates to vary by the type of program involved.

Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Hi, Steve -

I want to follow up on your comment that you would expect completion rates to vary by the type of program.  What are your thoughts about whether creating career pathways between ABS and post-secondary would be another opportunity to increase the rates of degree/certification completion?  Were there any examples of this type of program from your work with the community colleges in Oregon?  If so, was there any information available/asked about dual enrollment credits, or other industry-level certifications being used as part of these efforts?



Stephen Reder's picture

Thanks, Mike, for this question.  I think career pathways can generally improve completion rates.  There were not many CPs between ABS and postsecondary operating in Oregon at the time of the LSAL, and unfortunately there is no information available about these in the study's data.  There were dual enrollment programs for high school students to enroll concurrently in community college programs. LSAL did not include students enrolled in high school, however.  Although it might be possible to go back and look in LSAL for temporally overlapping ABS participation and postsecondary engagement, it wouldn't be feasible to identify the type of dual enrollment you're asking about.  But it's definitely a good topic for future research.