Let’s get real about adult education

Added March 11th, 2015 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

Michigan underfunds and underutilizes adult education, the Michigan League for Public Policy testified to a Senate subcommittee this morning.

Citing a new report by the League, members learned that Michigan is not reaching anywhere near enough of the working age adults who lack basic skills to be part of the state’s workforce development push.

The governor and the Legislature have been rightly pushing to build and update the skills of Michigan’s workforce, but by neglecting adult education as a skill-building strategy, they are leaving behind a large pool of workers who have the potential to become skilled workers and better support their families.

Adult education is no longer just about getting a GED (that alone won’t get most workers anywhere in today’s economy), but about preparing a worker for postsecondary skills leading to a certificate or degree. Employers want a skilled workforce, and the more workers in Michigan with in-demand skills and wages to match, the stronger the business climate and revenue base, and the less likelihood that workers will fall into poverty or need public assistance.

However, in any given year, only 7% of prime working age adults without a high school diploma and only 5% of adults who have trouble speaking English are enrolled in adult education programs.

Rather than providing adequate funding for adult education in order to reach these individuals and help them succeed, Michigan policymakers have cut funding. In 1996, Michigan funded adult education at $185 million per year, but in the past several years, it has funded it at $22 million or less.

Adult education could accomplish a lot with adequate funding. Because it is free to students, adult ed classes could be provided at community colleges as an alternative to remedial education classes, saving students money. Classes also could be provided in the workplace or at Head Start centers, making it more accessible to workers and parents with busy schedules.

The League recommends increasing annual adult education funding by $10-30 million. A $10 million increase would enable 8,000 more workers to take adult education classes, while a $30 million increase would enable 40,000 more to do so.

We hope that lawmakers will see that increasing funding for adult education is a win-win. A win for the worker and a win for employers seeking skilled workers.

–Peter Ruark


One Response to “Let’s get real about adult education”

  1. […] (Originally posted in Michigan League for Public Policy’s blog) […]

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