Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: A Promising Model

By Guest Author,  Acting Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin.

A college degree or credential is the key to individual and national prosperity. By 2020, economists predict that nearly two thirds of all jobs will require some level of education and training beyond high school. However, less than 60 percent of Americans 25 years and older currently have this level of preparation.

Last week, I had the fortune of engaging with hundreds of adult education practitioners, researchers, and advocates at National College Transition Network (NCTN) conference in Providence, RI. These thought leaders convened to share and identify effective strategies for helping adult learners progress to and through postsecondary education and training to good jobs.

Dual enrollment programs, in which students enroll in postsecondary coursework while working toward a secondary school diploma, was one of the many promising approaches discussed at NCTN. Research has shown that participation in dual enrollment programs can lead to improved academic outcomes for students such as greater secondary school completion, higher GPA, and increased likeliness of enrolling in and completing a postsecondary degree.

Recognizing the promise of dual enrollment, last year Congress amended the Higher Education Act to allow students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent to be eligible for Title IV financial aid through a program called Ability to Benefit (ATB). In order to receive Title IV financial aid through ATB, students must be enrolled in an eligible career pathway program.

In an effort to expand access to higher education, on November 3rd the Department of Education published a Federal Register notice inviting postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual enrollment experiment that will allow students without a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent to receive Federal Pell Grants for integrated education programs. This experiment will expand access to college coursework for secondary school students from low-income backgrounds, a group that studies have identified as benefiting immensely from dual enrollment programs. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country.

In addition to helping low-income students currently enrolled in a traditional public secondary school, this experimental program can provide much needed educational and financial support to low-skilled adults. In the U.S., over 30 million adults do not have a high school diploma and 20% of U.S. adults with a high school diploma have low literacy skills. Many of these low skilled adults are actively seeking educational programs and are working to increase skills, educational attainment, and economic outcomes, and say they want to do more. Dual enrollment programs could enable these adults, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, to achieve their goals.

To be considered for participation in the Dual Enrollment experimental site, interested postsecondary institutions must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, following the procedures listed in the Federal Register notice.

Photo of Johan Uvin

Johan E. Uvin
Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)

SEED: Coalitions for Community Growth

The following paragraph is excerpted from the Clinton Global Foundation’s announcement:

Girls from the Tampa Public Housing Authority get involved with a project at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The SEED Coalition is inspiring young minds with STEM activities in energy efficiency. Here, girls from the Tampa Public Housing Authority get involved with a project at the Museum of Science and Industry. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Education and Energy, committed to launch SEED (STEM, Energy and Economic Development): Coalitions for Community Growth, a place-based initiative that will connect public housing residents across the United States to STEM education and jobs. Leveraging federal investments and national partnerships, SEED will create local coalitions of public-private partners to launch or expand programs that provide access to energy literacy, STEM learning and workforce development opportunities for public housing residents. These opportunities will prepare them for living wage jobs in the energy and STEM fields, including those created by federal investments in infrastructure upgrades and energy retrofits at Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). In partnership with local PHAs, SEED will be piloted in five communities: Cleveland (Cuyahoga County), Denver, District of Columbia, San Antonio, and Tampa, with the goal of expanding to 20 cities by 2018. Through this initiative, 8,000 youth in public housing will get access to STEM education; 1,000 residents will receive STEM workforce training, and 1,000 will obtain employment. See more at:

What does this look like in a community?

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Improved Reentry Education Grantees

OCTAE is proud to be involved in one of the President’s signature efforts: criminal justice reform. A Presidential weekly radio address on October 31, 2015 signaled new attention to this issue and an event in Newark, NJ on November 2, 2015 laid out the many reform efforts being undertaken by federal, state, and local governments and private enterprise. See the fact sheet released with that event.

OCTAE’s Improved Reentry Education (IRE) program, announced in the White House fact sheet, builds upon the success and lessons learned from OCTAE’s previous investment, Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities (PRSCEO) program. PRESCO aimed to address the chronic issue of underemployment for ex-offenders; provide a more constructive use of time for those under community supervision; and, create an education continuum for bridging the gap between prison and community-based education and training programs. The purpose of the IRE program is to support demonstration projects in prisoner reentry education that develop evidence of reentry education’s effectiveness. IRE seeks to demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services—provided in institutional and community settings—are critical in supporting educational attainment and reentry success for previously incarcerated individuals. IRE applicants were instructed to develop their own models or incorporate the revised Reentry Education Model into their project plans.

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Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth

We all share the goal of improving education, employment, and other key outcomes for youth, especially those who are disconnected from work, school, or other social supports.  Today, the U.S. Department of Education is pleased to join with the interagency Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) initiative in announcing nine pilots to improve outcomes for this underserved population.  These pilots give state, local, and tribal governments an opportunity to test innovative new strategies to improve such outcomes for low-income disconnected youth ages 14 to 24, including youth who are in foster care, homeless, young parents, involved in the justice system, unemployed, or who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school.

The idea is simple: P3 gives communities greater flexibility to use the federal dollars they already have more effectively, and they agree to be more accountable for concrete outcomes.  This first set of pilots will test flexibility with federal youth-serving funds in diverse environments across America, including urban, rural, and tribal communities.  Pilot sites include:

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Broward County, Florida
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • The State of Oklahoma
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Southeastern Kentucky, including Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, and Perry Counties
  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Pilots will implement solutions that include, for example, helping low-income moms acquire the skills to become better parents while gaining valuable job experience through childcare internships, helping foster youth successfully transition from high school to college or employment, and intervening with the highest-risk youth before they drop out of high school.  In the coming weeks, Federal agencies and these sites will finalize performance agreements that will support the pilot’s work and outline the outcomes these solutions will be measured against.

Led by the Department of Education, P3 brings together six federal agencies including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Museum and Library Services to help communities address common barriers.  For example, practitioners and advocates on the front lines of service delivery have let agencies know that better outcomes are hindered sometimes by programmatic and administrative obstacles, such as fragmented data systems and program stovepipes resulting in poor coordination.  P3 pilots can tackle these challenges more effectively by blending together certain federal funds that they already receive from the participating agencies and by acquiring new waivers and flexibility under federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements.

The P3 model emphasizes evidence and learning, both within communities and at a national level.  The P3 competition asked sites to match existing evidence of what works with community challenges identified through a needs assessment and to demonstrate how they will use reliable data to guide decision-making and be accountable for better outcomes.  All nine pilots responded to the competition’s incentive to rigorously evaluate the impact of at least one component of their on-site approach.  Federal agencies will also conduct a national cross-site evaluation of how pilots implement the P3 model, their strategies, challenges, and outcomes. Findings will help strengthen how agencies and the field address disconnected youth needs in the future.

The zip code a young person is born in should never determine his or her outcomes in life. To help prepare for the second P3 competition, which will be held this winter, the Department of Education has released a Notice of Proposed Priorities on behalf of participating agencies to seek ideas from the field on strengthening this important initiative and empowering communities to think big about reconnecting youth.

DACA Youth Resource Guide

In an effort to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers, the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has released a resource guide to help educators, school leaders, and community organizations better support undocumented youths in secondary and postsecondary schools. Those for whom the guide is intended also include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

The guide includes resources aimed at high school and college students and includes:

  • an overview of the rights of undocumented students;
  • tips for educators on how to support undocumented youths in high school and college;
  • key information on non-citizen access to federal financial aid;
  • a list of private scholarships for which undocumented youths might be eligible;
  • information on federally funded adult education programs at the local level; and
  • guidance for migrant students in accessing their education records for DACA.

The aim of the guide is to help educators and school staff to support the academic success of undocumented youths and debunk misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The guide also shares information about financial aid options open to undocumented students, and supports youths applying for DACA consideration or renewal.

More information about resources for immigrants, refugees, asylees, and other new Americans can be found here.

OER: Providing Equitable Access to Education for All Learners

Summary from White House Blog Post: The Federal government is supporting the use of open educational resources (OER) to provide equitable access to quality education.

Everyone has the right to education…Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

Access to quality education is an essential component of addressing many of our biggest global and societal challenges. Last year, the United Nations surveyed youth around the world about their priorities—what opportunities they want to be offered. More than improvements in electricity and infrastructure, healthcare, and better jobs, what young people asked for was a good education. It’s no surprise that young people value education. World Bank economists estimate that for every year of study, individual income increases by 10-15 percent. These increases don’t just affect individuals; they often generate a “ripple effect” of benefits to families and entire communities. Openly licensed learning resources, also known as open educational resources (OER), can increase access to high-quality education opportunities and reduce the cost of education around the world.

Read the full post on the White House blog.

Connecting Highest Degree Earned to Cognitive Skills

The following is the introduction to a post that appears on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog

Categories of educational attainment – or highest degree earned – are often used in social science research as an indicator of a person’s knowledge and skills. This measure is objective and readily available, easily understood by survey respondents as well as by consumers of research and survey data, strongly tied to policies (such as those promoting high school graduation and college completion rates), and widely used in the labor market by employers. Moreover, strong connections between educational attainment and positive life outcomes, such as employment, earnings, health, and civic engagement, are well established.

The article compares the direct measures of cognitive skills with the highest level of educational attainment as reported in the 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey. You can read the full story on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

White House Launches the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign

This article is cross-posted from ED’s Homeroom Blog, in recognition of all the immigrants and refugees and their teachers in our programs celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Read the full post here.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, President Obama launched the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign, which invites local communities to commit, collaborate, and act on a set of principles to aid new American integration. These principles focus on building inclusive, welcoming communities that advance efforts in the core areas of civil, economic, and linguistic integration. The campaign recognizes the significance of local efforts given that each community has unique circumstances and opportunities. We ask that communities heed the call to create welcoming environments for new Americans in their own schools, neighborhoods, homes, agencies, and institutions. Encouraging broader participation in civic life, providing hubs where skills and job training can be developed, and supporting English language acquisition are clear steps that communities can take to ensure that new Americans feel accepted and supported in the places they call home. Enabling each other to succeed is the cornerstone of all successful communities.

To support these efforts, we will continue to provide critical resources and information to help schools, communities, state and local education agencies, institutions of higher education, and educators better serve this population and their families. One such resource, a Department-sponsored webinar series, focuses on key areas of the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign.

Learn more about how you can welcome, engage, and enhance the lives of new Americans (pdf).

Read the full blog here.


Throwing Down the Gauntlet for Professional Development

Co-authored post by Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education, OCTAE, researcher and teacher; and Gail Spangenberg, President, National Council for Adult Learning

Moving PD Closer to the Top was the theme of an August 25th blog hosted by the National Council for Adult Learning. A group of prominent Adult Education leaders contributed essays to that blog. They were Mary Ann Corley, John Fleischman, Daphne Greenberg, David Rosen, Cristine Smith, Jackie Taylor, Randy Whitfield, and the co-authors of this essay. They gave their perspectives on the high importance of professional development in our field and suggested many excellent priority actions in PD to meet current and future demands for outreach and effective service.

It is time to throw down the gauntlet for PD.  A serious conversation and commitment to Adult Education professional development is long overdue.  We should be talking more extensively and with higher-level commitment about the conditions we need to create for work and learning in our field, for the good of adult learners and our nation.  All the more so as we work together to prepare for a full and robust implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  NCAL’s blog was a start.  We hope the following discussion will add usefully to that beginning and encourage others to weigh in with their own ideas.


A recent report from The New Teacher Project concludes that school districts spend an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development.  The report summarizes the results of a survey of over 10,000 teachers and 500 school leaders in three large public school systems, as well as the results of interviews and analyses of teacher ratings. This huge investment produced underwhelming outcomes. Only 30% of teachers saw improvements in their practice over a 2-3 year period. The report also notes that no particular approach helped teachers get better, and among teachers who did improve success was not linked to any systemic efforts by the districts.

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LINCS Learner Center Launched for Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

LINCS Learner Center Topic Icons

LINCS Learner Center Homepage


OCTAE has launched an online center to direct adult learners to free, high-quality resources related to education, job and life skills. The LINCS Learner Center complements OCTAE’s priority goal to make on-demand learning available for teachers and students.

A call to action in OCTAE’s February 2015 report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States, identified the need and potential to reach more low-skilled adults through online, on-demand tools.

The Learner Center, opening during the 2015 National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, #AEFLWeek, is a gateway to resources from many federal agencies and organizations. Resources accessed through the site can help adult learners improve their reading, writing, math, science, and English skills; build job skills; acquire an understanding of American government and history to obtain citizenship; and find a nearby adult education, computer training, or postsecondary education or training program.

Developed to be mobile-friendly, the site brings resources to learners in class, on the go, and at home. This feature can extend users’ learning time and accelerate their skill development.

Share the site with your teachers and learners and re-tweet alerts from @LINCS_ED. Help amplify OCTAE’s reach by posting the following message to your own social media network:

Help #adultedu learners improve their English, get job skills & more. Point new users to free resources at the Learner Center!

The initial site is a beta version, designed to join the national conversation about digital tools for adult learners. Future phases will incorporate more tools, features, and partners. OCTAE applauds ongoing work to stimulate the marketplace and ed-tech development. Stay tuned and get involved!