Peter Ruark, Senior Policy Analyst
In the 21st century economy, a high school diploma is simply not enough, as entry level job openings with a career track increasingly require a postsecondary credential such as a degree, certificate or license. Many Michigan workers lack certain basic skills needed to succeed in the occupational training leading to these credentials, either because they dropped out of high school or they passed classes without completely mastering the skills. Adult education is a crucial link that prepares these workers for training, credentials, and finally, skilled jobs.
Although many workers need adult education, very few are enrolling in programs:
- Over 210,000 Michigan adults age 25-44 lack a high school diploma or GED, yet fewer than 7% enroll in adult education.
- More than 234,000 Michigan adults speak English less than “very well,” yet fewer than 5% enroll in English as a Second Language adult education programs.
Further, at least 60% of Michigan community college students each year need to take developmental (remedial) education classes due to not having mastered a skill area needed for postsecondary education or training. As such remediation has a tuition cost, this consumes a student’s money or financial aid and prolongs the time needed to obtain their degree or other credential, increasing the likelihood that the student will drop out of college before completion.
State and Federal Funding for Adult Education Has Been Cut
Michigan has greatly reduced its funding for adult education during the past 16 years. During budget years 1997 to 2001, state funding for adult education was at $80 million a year, but the Michigan Legislature cut funding drastically after that, to as low as $20 million annually. Adult education was funded at $22 million a year for several years, and last year the Legislature bumped up the funding to $25 million ($23.7 million with the 5% administrative set-aside). As federal funding has also been reduced, total funding for adult education in Michigan has dropped from $94.1 million in 2001 to only $37.4 million in 2016.
The funding cuts result in fewer people enrolling in and completing adult education programs. The decrease in total funding since 2001 has been accompanied by a 51% decline in enrollment, a 36% decrease in students completing a grade level and a 64% decrease in students completing and then advancing a grade level.
With more funding, adult education will be able to reach more students and will be able to facilitate student success by expanding into places such as community colleges, workplaces and sites in which parents can bring their children (i.e., Head Start).
The governor’s proposed budget continues to fund adult education at $25 million for budget year 2018. The Michigan League for Public Policy recommends that the adult education appropriation be increased by $10 million. At an estimated cost of $1,266 per student, this would enable approximately 7,900 more students to be served.