Press Release: Education: the Path from Welfare to Work

A survey of the most effective programs for facilitating access of welfare recipients to post secondary education has just been published by the Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Titled Continuing a Commitment to the Higher Education Option: Model State Legislation, College Programs, and Advocacy Organizations that Support Access to Post-Secondary Education, the report provides a context for the current congressional debate over welfare reauthorization.

Overall, the report finds that conflicts between work and college can be reconciled through innovative strategies that enable families to leave welfare rolls and ensure their longterm economic viability. The reauthorization bill already passed by the House would weaken or put an end to dozens of effective college programs that help public assistance recipients get the college degrees and vocational certificates they need to become self-sufficient, productive members of the American workforce. Continuing a Commitment to the Higher Education Option describes many of these education-sustaining efforts and crucial pro-family programs and offers recommendations on how to continue making education an available option for low-income women.

Students who are poor, single, and receive public assistance face obstacles to successful and meaningful participation in higher education related to balancing the demands of family work and school while they grapple with issues of poverty. Programs that support low-income students and students who receive public assistance recognize the particular circumstances of these students.

Key components of model programs include:

-- Subsidies or supports for childcare, transportation, textbooks, uniforms, classroom, and/or lab materials;
-- Emergency financial support;
-- Coordination between campus-based offices and departments and links to offices and organizations outside the campus;
-- The dedicated participation of faculty members and counselors who work closely with students;
-- Inclusion of a broad range of classes and options in a course of study that may include necessary remedial, ESL and basic education as well as a variety of relevant internship and work experiences.

The report points to evidence that public assistance recipients who participate in focused programs earn grade point averages and graduate at rates comparable to their non-public assistance receiving peers and they fare much better than recipients who are not in targeted programs. Of the programs discussed in this report, most involve work-related activities and thus do not contradict the widespread view that work requirements must be central to welfare reform. The report focuses on the laws and programs most supportive of obtaining associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, but does not overlook vocational programs and policies that lead to jobs that offer living wages and improved social mobility.

Continuing a Commitment to the Higher Education Option was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Hard copies can be obtained from The Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center, The City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10016. The fee is $6. Inquiries can be made by calling (212) 817-2055.
The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York. The only consortium of its kind in the nation, The Graduate Center draws its faculty of more than 1,600 members mainly from the CUNY senior colleges and cultural and scientific institutions throughout New York City. According to a recent National Research Council report, more than a third of The Graduate Center's rated Ph.D. programs rank among the nation's top 20.

Submitted on: MAY 1, 2003

Category: Press Room, Research Studies