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Final evaluation of Southwest Virginia Community College’s PluggedInVA TAACCCT Grant initiative (Topper et al. 2016)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Topper, A., Munn, W., Bor, E., Clery, S., & Smith, B. (2016). Final evaluation of Southwest Virginia Community College’s PluggedInVA TAACCCT Grant initiative. Retrieved from: https://www.skillscommons.org//handle/taaccct/15650

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the PluggedInVA (PIVA) program on education and employment outcomes.
  • Using college administrative and state workforce data, the authors conducted a nonexperimental study to compare outcomes between students in the PIVA program with a comparison group of non-participating students.
  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between participation in the PIVA program and education or employment outcomes.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure the groups being compared were similar before the intervention or include sufficient control variables. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to PluggedInVA; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

PluggedInVA (PIVA)

Features of the Intervention

The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program provided $1.9 billion in grants to community colleges to improve skills and support employment in high-demand industries, notably manufacturing, health care, information technology, energy, and transportation. Through four rounds of funding, DOL awarded 256 TAACCCT grants to approximately 800 educational institutions across the United States and its territories.

In 2012, Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in Richlands, Virginia received a TAACCCT grant to fund the PluggedInVA (PIVA) program. SWCC served the Appalachian region of Virginia with a higher poverty rate than the rest of the state. The PIVA program provided training in the high growth areas of Pharmacy Technician, Phlebotomy Technician, Paraoptometric, and Crime Scene Technician. The program aimed to serve local TAA-eligible and unemployed adults. To be eligible for the program, students needed to not have a college degree, not be a prior felon, and be accepted to the program. The programs were each six-months long and provided GED training and college credit, which was offered as stacked credentials and was transferable. Some of the classes were online or hybrid and the grant integrated more technology into the curricula. Students could receive support services, such as tutoring or referrals for other services.

Features of the Study

The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who were enrolled in the PIVA program to non-participating students who were enrolled in the same academic programs during the same time period. Study participants included 92 students in the treatment group and 51 in the comparison group. Data sources included college administrative data, data from the National Student Clearinghouse, and data from the Virginia Employment Commission. The authors compared the differences in the proportion of students who achieved education and employment outcomes between the treatment and comparison groups.

Findings

Education and skills gain

  • The study did not find statistically significant relationships between participation in the PIVA program and program persistence, capstone course completion, program completion, or enrollment in additional postsecondary education.

Employment

  • The study found no statistically significant relationship between participation in the PIVA program and employment after graduation.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors did not account for preexisting differences between the groups before program participation or include sufficient control variables. The authors note that the composition of the treatment and comparison groups varied by gender and Pell grant status and that they controlled for these differences. However, the authors do not state how the differences were controlled as they used Fisher’s Exact Test for their analyses because they could not conduct regression analyses due to small sample sizes. Moreover, the groups differed by high school completion status and prior number of credit hours accumulated and this was not controlled for in the analyses. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the PIVA program—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention or include sufficient control variables. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the PluggedInVA program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2020

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