Nonprofits To Examine Career Pathways Initiative As Poverty Cycle Breaker

Apr 15, 2015

The Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative announced a first of its kind study on Wednesday in an effort to analyze student data and the power of education to break the poverty cycle.

The Arkansas Community Colleges, a non-profit association representing all 22 public community colleges in Arkansas, is spearheading the effort through a joint project with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Annie E. Casey Foundation.

By analyzing more than 30,000 student records, the study aims to provide a comprehensive evaluation of Arkansas’ Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) and demonstrate its social impacts and economic returns. It will also review evidence that the CPI is decreasing the number of families living below the poverty line while increasing postsecondary credential attainment and overall economic mobility, the ACC said.

“We are so pleased to announce this study – which will highlight our program’s success and serve as a very clear model for other states around the country, with evidence-based policy recommendations,” said Bill Stovall, executive director for Arkansas Community Colleges.

The CPI program uses federal funds allocated to the state to provide education and job training to low-income residents with children. The program has seen high success rates in providing transportation vouchers, child care, case management, career coaching, and tutoring options for key students.

CPI is administered by the ACC’s 22 two-year colleges, three university technical centers, and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

“The CPI fits well with Governor Hutchinson’s goal of helping Arkansans overcome poverty through education and career training,” said Daryl Bassett, director, Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. “Arkansas CPI students get the assistance they need to complete a credential and get a family-supporting job, while also meeting the needs of business and industry.”

“The program’s initial data clearly shows its positive impact on CPI graduates. More than 61% of recent completers earned one or more credentials and saw their wages increase an average of 37% after completing the program,” said Dr. Brett Powell, director, Arkansas Department of Higher Education. “These are life-changing impacts that demonstrate the importance of CPI, both to individuals who complete the program and to the state of Arkansas.”

Arkansas has the second-highest poverty rate (18.8%) in the United States, with the 46th lowest postsecondary educational attainment in key working groups.

“Despite the tremendous success of this initiative, and the lives we’ve changed, the program’s budget has been decreased from about half of its initial investment, putting a serious strain on our ability to boost the state’s economic growth, as we have since 2005,” Stovall added. “We need our legislators to fully fund this program for years to come, so we can continue to improve the lives of Arkansans, and our communities.”

Funding for FY2015 is budgeted at $7.15 million, down from a high several years ago of $13 million.

The study will be completed in three phases over the next 30 months and will include policy recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers and institution leaders.