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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Study Reports Extraordinarily High Return on Investment for Taxpayer Dollars in the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative Over Five Years

Program provides young, low-income parents with the career training needed to secure a high-wage, high-skill job

Press Release – LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – August 10, 2017 – The Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) published findings today that demonstrate a 179 percent return on investment of funds to Arkansas taxpayers. In other words, every dollar invested in CPI programming resulted in a return of $1.79 to taxpayers over the course of five years.

The full report is viewable here: http://www.collegecounts.us/results/

The Arkansas CPI program, initiated in 2005 to connect low-income Arkansans to education and career opportunities through community colleges, aims to breaks the cycle of poverty for families in the state. Arkansas is the third-poorest state in the nation and, compared to the rest of the nation, has one of the lowest postsecondary degree attainment rates. Citing this need, the project received sponsorship from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2015. The project is coordinated by the Arkansas Community Colleges.

The ROI study, conducted by Metis Associates in New York, combined with earlier findings of improved educational and financial outcomes for CPI participants, suggests that the Arkansas Career Pathway model is achieving success in helping low-income citizens break the cycle of poverty and achieve economic self-sufficiency. It considers financial factors including:

  • CPI participants’ wage increases after completion of the program
  • The increased tax revenue to the state
  • The reduction in public assistance benefits paid to participants as a result of their newfound financial independence

The CPI program utilizes federal funds to educate low-income parents and provide them with career training for a high-wage, high-skill job. The overall goal is to prepare participants for future opportunities and advancement rather than hourly-wage labor. CPI staff members provide full-service assistance to participants, including transportation and child care vouchers, case management, career coaching, and tutoring.

Sherece West-Scantlebury, CEO and President of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, said, “The ROI results clearly demonstrate that the Arkansas CPI program is worthy of additional state and philanthropic investment. Other states are now looking to Arkansas as a model for serving economically disadvantaged students.”

“In addition to the impressive returns for taxpayers, we are thrilled to see the difference CPI has made in participants’ lives—many of whom are parents looking to build good, family-sustaining careers,” said Allison Gerber, who oversees the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s investments in education, employment, and training. “These results show what’s possible when we tailor programs to the specific needs of employers and ensure students are equipped with the relevant skills to succeed in growing industries.”

Daryl Bassett, Director of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, which helped oversee implementation of the program, said, “The CPI program is clearly paying off. Students are graduating with certificates and degrees that lead to high-wage, high-demand jobs that meet the needs of our state’s employers. And the state is seeing higher taxable incomes.”

The new ROI study included an examination of how CPI participants belonging to different demographic groups benefited from completing the program. The average CPI participant is:

  • 31 years of age
  • Overwhelmingly female (89 percent)
  • A single parent

45.2 percent of African American participants who enrolled in the program earned a postsecondary degree – nearly three times the success rate of African American community college students living below the poverty line who were not enrolled in CPI (16.9 percent). Hispanic participants in CPI saw a success rate of 55.6 percent, compared to the 14.2 percent of Hispanic community college students in poverty who did not participate in CPI.

“The results for minority students are particularly impressive,” said Arkansas Department of Higher Education Director Maria Markham. “This is clear evidence that investing in programs like CPI that serve nontraditional students is good for Arkansas as a whole. This achievement demonstrates the impact that student success can have on the lives of Arkansans.”

Governor Asa Hutchinson said, “The results of the study are outstanding. This is another great example of how investments in our community colleges pay dividends in both the short and the long term. Investments like the Career Pathways Initiative improve the education and career readiness of Arkansans and are a vital step toward achieving our economic development goals.”


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