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Oregon Credentials, Acceleration and Support for Employment (CASE) evaluation report: Results, key issues and implications for policy, practice and systems (Watrus & Fercho 2015)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Watrus, B., & Fercho, H. (2015). Oregon Credentials, Acceleration and Support for Employment (CASE) evaluation report: Results, key issues and implications for policy, practice and systems. Retrieved from https://www.roguecc.edu/Programs/CareerPathways/pdf/CASE%20final%20evaluation%20report_Final.pdf

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Credentials, Acceleration and Support for Employment (CASE) program on education and employment outcomes.
  • The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who were in the CASE program to a matched comparison group.
  • The study found a positive relationship between participation in the CASE program and program completion and employment; however, the study did not include tests of statistical significance.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar or use sufficient. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the CASE program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Credentials, Acceleration and Support for Employment (CASE) Program

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 2011, a TAACCCT grant was awarded to fund the Credentials, Acceleration and Support for Employment (CASE) program. The CASE program was a collaborative effort between 17 community colleges in Oregon, a number of state agencies, employers, and community partners. Its main objective was to improve educational and employment outcomes for TAA eligible, unemployed, and underemployed individuals using three strategies: career pathways, career coaching, and credit for prior learning. Participants were eligible to receive CASE program components such as start-to-finish career coaching and enhanced curriculum.

Features of the Study

The study was conducted across 17 community colleges in Oregon that took part in the CASE program. The authors examined differences in educational and employment outcomes between students participating in the CASE program and a matched comparison group of students. The groups were matched on age, gender, adult basic skills (ABS), and the community college attended. The treatment group was constructed based on programs of study aggregated up to career areas and consisted of participants who entered training in 2011-12. The comparison group included participants who entered training in 2009-10 that were enrolled in key courses tied to the programs of study in which the treatment participants were enrolled. Sample sizes for both groups ranged from 76-296 depending on the program of study. Three different data sources were used in the analysis: I-TRAC was used for the CASE group educational outcomes, OCCURS was used for the comparison group educational outcomes, and Oregon Employment Department unemployed insurance (UI) wage data was used for the employment outcomes for both groups. The authors used statistical models to evaluate differences between the two groups on completion rates, credential earned, credits completed, degree, entered employment rate, and employment retention rate. However, the study did not include tests of statistical significance.

Findings

Education and Skills Gain

  • The study found a relationship between participation in the CASE program and program completion rates, where CASE participants were more likely to complete the program than comparison group students across all five programs of study examined (Business Management, Food & Natural Resources, Health Services, Human Resources, and Industrial & Engineering Systems).
  • The study found a relationship between participation in the CASE program and earned credentials, where CASE participants were more likely to complete the program than comparison group students across all five programs of study examined.
  • The study found a relationship between participation in the CASE program and earned degrees, where CASE participants were more likely to complete the program than comparison group students across all five programs of study examined.

Employment

  • The study found a relationship between participation in the CASE program and entered employment, where CASE participants had higher entered employment rates than comparison group students for all fields except Food & Natural Resources.
  • The study found a relationship between participation in the CASE program and retained employment, where CASE participants had higher retained employment rates than comparison group students for Business Management, Food & Natural Resources, and Human Resources.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors created a matched group of non-participating students to compare to the CASE students. However, the authors did not account for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and comparison groups, such as pre-intervention degree of financial disadvantage. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the CASE program—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. The study also examined outcomes across 17 community colleges, with the authors noting that not all the treatment students accessed the same CASE program services. Therefore, services varied across the Oregon community college system and these differences in implementation could have also impacted the observed outcomes. Lastly, the author used a cohort from previous enrollment years as the comparison group. Because the outcome data on the two groups were collected from participants at different times, differences in outcomes could be due to time-varying factors (such as overall changes in the economy) and not the CASE program.

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 or use sufficient. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the CASE program; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2020

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