When Briana came back to school she knew she wanted to pass the GED and get that behind her. She wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do beyond that, but she was confident it wasn’t a lifetime of part-time customer service or restaurant jobs.
This spring, Briana will celebrate her achievements. She will attend the HSE Graduation Ceremony, where she will celebrate receiving her HSE diploma, and the PCC Graduation where she will receive her Medical Assistant Certificate.
Thinking back on where she started – no high school diploma, or any experience in healthcare, she said she feels fortunate, and recognizes that “there’s a lot out there for you — you just have to want it and seek it.”
We were excited to be invited by Assistant Secretary Scott Stump — from the U.S. Dept of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) –, to participate in an invitation only convening in Washington D.C. this week. Approximately 60 leaders, with demonstrated commitment to supporting adult students into career pathways, were in attendance. Participants from the Department of Education, Department of Labor, Community Colleges, Adult Education State Directors and advocacy organizations like CLASP, COABE and National Skills Coalition met for a full day of panel presentations and problem posing to develop recommendations about the Ability to Benefit (ATB) option for GED-seeking students to obtain Federal Financial Aid. CLASP Article: Could 2019 Be the Year for ATB?
OCTAE had heard from a variety of stakeholders, including us, that additional technical assistance is needed in order to fully utilize the ATB provisions of the Higher Education Act. Increasing usage of the provisions has the potential to increase accessibility and affordability of quality training and education for low-income adult students and opportunity youth.
PCC started utilizing ATB with students in June of 2015 for GED-seekers who are enrolled in Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) programs. In all, PCC has recruited 151 IBEST students into 8 cohorts of IBEST since September of 2014. Using ATB has allowed adults who lack a high school diploma to access and succeed in postsecondary education and training. Data show that 80% of IBEST students complete the postsecondary certificate.
In addition to Medical Assistant, PCC has developed IBEST programs in Machine Tool Technology, Industrial Technology and Logistics and Supply Chain Management. During the recruitment process, the IBEST program staff informs students about possible funding sources, including ATB for federal financial aid, and then supports students through the steps to apply for and receive those funds.
At the Convening, Laurie presented information about what we have been doing at Pima and some of the challenges to utilizing ATB. We were able to network with the OCTAE staff and leaders from other colleges and left with some great on the ground advice from national colleagues and concrete ways to increase the the number of ATB students, not just at Pima, but throughout Arizona. OCTAE will be issuing recommendations from the convening to multiple audiences with additional guidance for colleges.