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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of two articles about the success and services of the Career Pathways program at National Park College.

Success in the Career Pathways program at National Park College reflects and even surpasses success rates determined by the recent "College Count$" study of programs throughout the state.

The study analyzed the first 10 years of the Career Pathways Initiative in Arkansas. Results showed low-income students who participated earn associate degrees or technical certificates at more than double the rate of the state's general community college population.

Career Pathways is administered by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the state's 22 two-year institutions and three university technical centers. The initiative's funding is provided from federal appropriations for Temporary Assistance for Need Families, commonly known as welfare. The appropriations are administered through the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

The program has provided education and training to more than 30,000 low-income Arkansans since it began in 2006. Participants must qualify for public assistance, live at 250 percent or less of the poverty level and support a family as a custodial parent to children younger than 21 years old.

Less than 24 percent of general non-CPI community college students completed at least one associate degree or technical certificate between 2006-13, compared to 52 percent of Career Pathways students. The rate was much greater in the NPC Career Pathways program, at 80 percent.

Only 39 percent of students nationwide enrolled at two-year public colleges in 2008 completed an associate degree of certificate by 2014, but 62 percent of CPI students at Arkansas community colleges did so by 2013. NPC experienced a success rate of 70 percent of students in Career Pathways completing a degree or certificate during that time.

"I absolutely love this program," said LaTaschya Barnett, community outreach coordinator for the college's Career Pathways program. "To see a student come in the door, feel like they are not able to do it, then to see them at graduation and to watch their children's reaction when they graduate is priceless. I can't even articulate how rewarding it is by the time we get to our students' graduation.

"We have students who really don't think they can do it. Then they come and we teach them that life happens while you are in school. I think the bigger part of the program is the mentoring, just encouraging students, motivating them, inspiring them and convincing them that they can make it through this crisis in the middle of a semester. You can still make it."

The results were the first phase of research from College Count$, a joint project established a year ago by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. The project was undertaken to demonstrate the program's potential to break the cycle of poverty and provide a return on investment for participants, their families and the state.

The study was conducted by Metis Associates, a national research and consulting firm headquartered in New York City, N.Y. Methods used in the study comply with the What Works Clearinghouse guidelines for evidence-based programs created by the U.S. Department of Education.

Results of the study were announced March 31 at the Arkansas State University System offices in Little Rock. Speakers included Katherine Bowell, College Count$ project manager; Brett Powell, ADHE director; Bill Stovall, executive director of Arkansas Community Colleges; Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation; and Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

"The Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative is a nonpartisan program that has generated real returns for our state's economy," Hutchinson said. "It trains Arkansans for in-demand jobs and successfully moves individuals from welfare to work. Everyone wins with this highly effective program."

Federal budget cuts decreased CPI funding several years ago. The program's budget at NPC for the 2015-16 school year was $220,000, which provided services for 135 students. The program formerly served as many as 300 students in a year.

"I think the study was important because if there's anything the state wants to invest in, it should be a program that we have proven results," Barnett said.

The next phase of College Count$ will measure the return on investment generated for the state as a result of expanded employment, increased tax revenues and a decline in the need for public assistance. Researchers hope to explore whether success in educational attainment contributes to improved economic mobility. They also hope to study which case management or financial supports provided to participants correlated to greater educational success, particularly in relation to success in remedial courses at the community colleges.

Tomorrow: Removing "barriers" to student success.

Local on 04/17/2016

Print Headline: Pathways program 'Count$' at NPC

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