Absence of conflict of interest.
The New Growth Group. (2018). TAACCCT building Illinois' bio-economy (BIB) consortium final evaluation report. Cleveland, OH: New Growth Group.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Building Illinois’ Bio-economy (BIB) consortium on education outcomes.
- The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students in BIB grant-affected programs to a matched comparison group of students in non-BIB grant-affected programs.
- The study found a significant positive relationship between BIB program participation and program completion rates at two of the five colleges.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not use sufficient controls in their analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to participation in BIB grant-affected programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Building Illinois’ Bio-economy (BIB) Consortium
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 2014, the Building Illinois’ Bio-economy (BIB) consortium was awarded TAACCCT grant funding to train workers (including veterans and TAA-eligible workers) in bio-economy. The consortium was comprised of five open access community colleges in south-central Illinois. Targeted training areas included bioprocessing, biofuel technology, water management, restorative ecology, and agricultural watershed management. There were 48 certificate and degree programs through the consortium. Some new programs were created while others that previously existed at the colleges were modified. Programs used multiple strategies, including prior learning assessment, remedial instruction, employer engagement and partnerships, applied learning, internships, hands-on learning, competency-based learning, online and hybrid instruction with simulations and game design, and student support services.
Features of the Study
The study used a nonexperimental design to compare educational outcomes of participants in the BIB grant-affected programs to participants in non-BIB grant-affected programs. The comparison groups at Lewis and Clark Community College, Lincoln Land Community College, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville included students in comparable programs to the treatment programs, whereas a historical comparison group was used at Carl Sandburg College and Southeastern Illinois College. The authors matched BIB participating students to similar non-participating students using propensity scores developed from demographic information for each college. Across the five colleges, study participants included 1,231 students in the treatment group and 571 students in the comparison group. The study used data from College Student Information Systems, the Participant Intake form, and participant surveys completed after the conclusion of programs. The authors conducted statistical models individually for each college to compare differences in program completion between the treatment and comparison groups.
- Carl Sandburg College (CSC) in Galesburg, Illinois
- Lewis and Clark Community College (LCCC) in Godfrey, Illinois
- Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) in Springfield, Illinois
- Southeastern Illinois College (SIC) in Harrisburg, Illinois
- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in Edwardsville, Illinois
Education and skills gain
- The study found a significant relationship between BIB program participation and increased odds of program completion at LCCC and SIUE only.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
For each college, the authors used matching to ensure students in the research groups were similar in terms of baseline demographic characteristics. They found that the composition of the treatment and comparison groups varied by pre-intervention degree of financial disadvantage at some colleges but did not control for it in the analyses. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the BIB grant-affected programs—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. Moreover, because participants in the treatment and comparison groups were enrolled in different programs or at different times, differences in outcomes could be due to time-varying or varying factors in the programs of study (such as required coursework) and not the BIB grant-affected programs. 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 use sufficient controls in their analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to participation in BIB grant-affected programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.