College Count$: Evidence of Impact
November 15, 3 p.m. EST
Since 2005, Arkansas Community Colleges have been at the forefront of an innovative welfare reform experiment that uses federal TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families welfare dollars) to send low-income Arkansans into the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative leading to higher wage, high-demand jobs. The CPI, which has served more than 30,000 students statewide, features career pathways offering stackable credentials and wrap-around case management services that allow at-risk students to overcome barriers that too often keep low-income, first-generation students from being successful in college. Tuition and fees, tutoring, mentoring and vouchers for gas or child-care assistance are provided at an average of $1,500 per student per year.
Of more than 30,000 TANF-eligible students who have participated in the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative, 51 percent have graduated from with an associate degree or technical certificate, more than twice the rate of their community college peers across the state who did not participate in CPI. Nationwide, only 39 percent of all students who enrolled in a two-year college in 2008 completed a degree or certificate by 2014, while 62 percent of Arkansas CPI students did so. CPI students are similarly exceeding expectations in earned wages, making significantly more money after college completion than their peers.
A recent return-on-investment study has shown that for every dollar that the state of Arkansas has invested in the Career Pathways Initiative, it has received more than $1.79 in increased tax revenue based on the improved earnings of participants and reduced need for public assistance.