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2015 January 6 - 09:24 pm

A Snapshot of Accelerating Opportunity Students

A survey of 444 Accelerating Opportunity students, administrative data, site visits, site conference calls, and the first and second year college surveys.

A survey of 444 Accelerating Opportunity students was designed to provide information on students and their experiences in the program to supplement information collected through administrative data, site visits, site conference calls, and the first and second year college surveys.

The survey found:

Students expressed high levels of satisfaction with the program. Almost 90 percent of students felt the program adequately prepared them or prepared them very well for work in their field of training or for further education. Close to half of students said the program exceeded their expectations and an additional 47 percent said the program met their expectations.

The program largely served non-traditional students. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents were age 25 or older. Over half of the survey respondents had dependent children, and almost a quarter were single parents. In addition, more than half of respondents were working while enrolled in Accelerating Opportunity (AO), mostly in low-paying jobs for more than 30 hours per week.

Despite the initial focus on serving individuals who lacked high school credentials, the program ended up serving largely those with a high school degree or its equivalent. Nearly 90 percent of students surveyed had obtained a high school credential. While this may have been due to changes in Pell that limited receipt to those with such credentials, only 35 percent reported receiving Pell grant assistance for AO.

Students reported their classes were more focused on job-related skills than on basic skills. About 64 percent of students reported spending time on content related to building knowledge and skills for a job compared to 50 percent who said coursework included instruction to improve their reading, writing, or math skills. Reflecting the job skills focus, programs often included some form of hands-on learning, and 60 percent of students reported some form of employer exposure through training at a job site, class visits, or meetings.

While most students reported receiving financial or non-financial support while in the program, a majority had to pay for some part of the program, and counseling focused on academic and employment issues. Almost three-quarters of the population received some type of advising from staff members, primarily related to academic issues and job issues. Very few students received financial or personal advising or assistance with childcare, transportation, and emergencies. Sixty-eight percent of students surveyed had to pay for some part of the program, such as uniforms, books, tuition, or other fees.

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