Fein, D., Beecroft, E., Long, D., & Robertson A. (2003). College as a job advancement strategy: An interim report on the New Visions Self-Sufficiency and Lifelong Learning Project. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates Inc.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of Riverside Community College’s New Visions Self-Sufficiency and Lifelong Learning Project on welfare recipients’ employment, earnings, and welfare receipt.
- The study is based on a randomized controlled trial and estimated the effect of offering welfare recipients the New Visions program by using California and community college administrative data to compare average outcomes among those offered access to the program to the average outcomes of those excluded, after adjusting for differences between the groups.
- The authors found that access to the New Visions program increased the average number of quarters during which participants received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and increased the average amount of TANF benefits received in the first two years.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the New Visions program, and not to other factors.
The New Visions Self-Sufficiency and Lifelong Learning Project
Features of the Intervention
New Visions was a special college program for welfare recipients offered at Riverside Community College (RCC) in Riverside, California. The program prepared welfare recipients for community college–based occupational training programs, fostered lifelong learning, and promoted job advancement. The program consisted of a one-week orientation session followed by 24 weeks of remedial academic instruction geared to preparation for college and/or occupational training and included courses in mathematics, English, reading, and office-related computer software. In addition, during the 24 weeks, participants took a guidance class designed to prepare them with critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, job search, interpersonal relationship, and study skills. After the 24-week program, participants were placed in occupational training modules designed to combine training sessions with work and family demands. Participants also received personalized counseling and support from Riverside County Department of Public Social Services and RCC staff.
Features of the Study
This study is based on a randomized controlled experiment run from September 1998 to May 2002. RCC and the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services randomly assigned 1,076 volunteers to a treatment group that was allowed to participate in New Visions or to a control group that was not allowed to participate. Control group members were encouraged to take part in other vocational programs offered through the county’s welfare program, including courses at the same community college. All members of the sample were welfare clients who were parents. This report presents an interim impact analysis based on a randomly selected subsample of 658 study participants. The authors estimated the impact of the program by comparing average outcomes among those offered access to the program with the average outcomes of those excluded, after adjusting for chance differences between the groups.
- The study found that access to the New Visions program statistically significantly increased the average number of quarters in the first two years during which participants received TANF benefits by 0.4.
- The authors also found that New Visions program participants received an average of $116 more in TANF benefits than control participants in the sixth quarter after random assignment and received a total of $808 more in the first two years.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The study authors estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes related to employment, earnings, and public benefit receipt. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the New Visions program, and not to other factors.