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TAACCCT3 INTERFACE project: Final evaluation report (Smith et al. 2017)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Smith, L., Gregg, A., Roth, L., Stoeklen, P., Krueger, B., Lawton, G., & Knaeble, B. (2017). TAACCCT3 INTERFACE project: Final evaluation report. Menomonie, WI: University of Wisconsin-Stout, Applied Research Center, Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Intentional Networks Transforming Effective and Rigorous Facilitation of Assessment, Collaboration, and Education (INTERFACE) project on education, earnings, and employment outcomes.
  • The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare education, earnings, and employment outcomes of students in the INTERFACE program to a matched comparison group.
  • The study found that INTERFACE students had significantly higher pass rates, graduation rates, and employment rates than students in the comparison group.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the INTERFACE program, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Intentional Networks Transforming Effective and Rigorous Facilitation of Assessment, Collaboration, and Education (INTERFACE) 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 2013, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) was awarded a TAACCCT grant to create Intentional Networks Transforming Effective and Rigorous Facilitation of Assessment, Collaboration, and Education (INTERFACE). WTCS, which includes the 16 technical colleges in Wisconsin, collaborated with business partners, other TAACCCT recipients, and the workforce development system to strengthen computer skill competency and career pathways in information technology-related programs for TAA-eligible individuals and veterans. The colleges created new and/or updated their current credentials, curricula, and student support service delivery. Colleges also used their TAACCCT funds to purchase equipment or hire additional staff.

Features of the Study

The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who participated in the INTERFACE program to students who did not participate. The authors matched INTERFACE participants to similar nonparticipants using student demographic and education information. Across the 16 colleges, study participants included 4,514 students in the treatment group and 60,601 in the comparison group. Using academic, wage, and employment data from the participating colleges and WTCS, the authors examined differences in outcomes between the treatment and comparison groups. Outcomes included pass rates (defined as completed credits divided by attempted credits for each student), retention rates, graduation rates, wages (increases for students who were incumbent workers), and employment rates (for students who were non-incumbent workers).

Findings

Education and skills gains

  • The study found a small, but significant effect of the INTERFACE program on pass rates, with 72.4% of students in the INTERFACE program passing their courses compared to 72.2% of students in the comparison group.
  • The study also found that students in the INTERFACE program graduated at significantly higher rates (35%) than students in the comparison group (20%).
  • However, the study found no significant differences between the treatment and comparison groups in retention rates.

Earnings and wages

  • The study found no significant differences between the treatment and comparison groups in earnings.

Employment

  • The study found that students in the INTERFACE program had significantly higher employment rates (93%) than students in the comparison group (76%).

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors note that as of Year 2 of the study, there were very few completers of the INTERFACE program; therefore, students had not had time to secure employment. Additionally, the evaluation team was limited in access to wage and employment data.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the INTERFACE program, but other factors might also have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2020

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