Mature Programs of Study: Examining Policy Implementation at the Local Level

Publication March 2013

This report presents the final results of a mixed-method longitudinal study that used a backward-mapping approach to examine mature, POS-like programs at three community colleges and their feeder high schools across the country. This study is part of the NRCCTE’s portfolio of groundbreaking longitudinal research on POS in the United States.

Corinne Alfeld and Sharika Bhattacharya, NRCCTE researchers at FHI 360, sought to identify the key components of POS that support students’ transition to college and careers, including whether and how participation affects students. Alfeld and Bhattacharya started from the desired end point of POS– colleges awarding industry-recognized credentials or degrees to students who began the POS while in high school– and identified both key components of the programs and how students progressed through the programs to get to this end point. 

They found that POS development is a complex and lengthy process, and that the key components of POS in practice do not neatly align with the key components contained in the Perkins policy guidance. They also found that, although the majority of study students did not continue with the same high school POS in college or work, POS participation did have a positive effect on a variety of high school and college outcomes.

Selected findings from the study include:

  • High school transcript analyses showed a positive relationship between POS credits, academic credits, and grades, and the majority of students reported that being in a POS made them more motivated to stay in school and better prepared to make choices about college and career.
  • In longitudinal analyses controlling for high school GPA, the number of POS courses taken in high school was significantly related to staying in the same career cluster in college and to earning a college credential.
  • The most striking commonality across the mature sites was a shared vision by multiple stakeholders of a seamless transition from high school to college, which guided subsequent practices.
  • Partnerships were clearly the key component– that is, multiple stakeholders with good relationships working together to achieve a shared vision of helping students better prepare for college and careers.
  • Study findings regarding the need for dedicated staffing to create secondary-postsecondary links and external funding sought by the colleges to support POS development were unexpected, as they were neither part of Perkins IV or the subsequent OVAE Framework.

Overall, the researchers suggest that the continuity of students in the same POS from high school to college and career should not be the only measurement of the success of the policy. Quantitative results suggest that POS implementation efforts will benefit students’ postsecondary success.

These findings and others can be explored in the full report. An appendix of detailed case studies of each site is also available via a link in the full report.

Alfeld, C., & Bhattacharya, S. (2013, March). Mature programs of study: Examining policy implementation at the local level. Louisville, KY: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Louisville.

Download the report (PDF)