Postsecondary Success of Young Adults: System Impact Opportunities in Adult Education – Findings and Recommendations

The paper provides a summary and analysis of promising policies and practices that could be beneficial in helping adults advance from adult education to postsecondary education.

C. Zafft
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
National College Transition Network, World Education, Inc.
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This report was developed as part of the Postsecondary Success initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Data were collected by telephone interviews with 17 state adult education directors, postsecondary staff, and 1 – 2 program directors that were recommended by the state director.

The report summarizes and describes findings in the following categories:

  • Planning and partnerships
  • Models of college and career readiness
  • Assessment and advising
  • Comprehensive supports
  • Acceleration strategies
  • Funding mechanisms
  • Youth-specific issues and models.

The paper begins with an overview of adult education college and career readiness efforts and includes a particular focus on youth in adult education, ages 16 to 24. In addition to basic skills instruction, most adults, regardless of age, could benefit from college and career readiness services by helping them prepare for postsecondary education. The author describes a multitude of approaches taken by participating states in providing these services and also discusses challenges and opportunities that emerged in planning for and implementing the services. In addition to stating that the adult education system reform efforts should include a shift and expansion "beyond the GED", the author provides recommendations for learners of all ages in adult education programs and closes by discussing youth-specific issues and approaches to developing and implementing youth-focused programs in 4 of the 17 states. The recommendations for adult education leaders and private and public funders are framed around partnerships, strategies, and needed research.

What the experts say

The major value of this resource is the extensive description of major state initiatives that involve significant investment of Federal, state, and in some cases foundation money. Particularly significant is the information that the new GED will be more closely aligned to postsecondary course requirements.

The overarching theme of this resource is systemic change and the need for extensive professional development for part-time and volunteer teachers. This resource provides a source of programmatic information and deals honestly with the challenges of high school standards and youth who do not complete high school.

Can we act as a “screening mechanism” for at-risk youth? Are there partnerships we can develop that would provide a seamless transition to postsecondary education for at-risk youth?

The need for contextualized learning, the integration of college and career readiness instruction, and innovative uses of technology with GED and adult diploma programs present future challenges and this paper is indeed food for thought. If these changes do take place at the state level, practitioners will see major changes in what is expected on them in the classroom.

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