Absence of conflict of interest.
Selzer, A. K., Sanchez, R., Michaelides, M., Shetty, S., & Bertane, C. (2016). Arizona Sun Corridor Get Into Energy Consortium (ASC-GIEC): Third-party evaluation services for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant final report. Columbia, MD: IMPAQ International.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Arizona Sun Corridor Get Into Energy Consortium (ASC-GIEC) program on student education outcomes.
- The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the education outcomes of students who were in the ASC-GIEC program to a comparison group of students in other Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.
- The study found that participation in the ASC-GIEC program was associated with higher program completion rates than the comparison program. However, the study did not include tests of statistical significance for this outcome.
- 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. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ASC-GIEC program; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Arizona Sun Corridor Get Into Energy Consortium (ASC-GIEC) 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 2012, a consortium of five colleges in the Arizona Sun Corridor received a TAACCCT grant to expand their Arizona Sun Corridor – Get Into Energy Consortium (ASC-GIEC) program. The program targeted TAA-eligible workers and other students to increase college students’ skills and employment within the energy and mining industries. Specific programs varied across the five schools and included Power Plant Technology, IT Security, Electrical Utility Technology, Engineering Technology, Industrial Maintenance Operation, Mechatronics, Welding, Electrical Instrumentation, and Pre-Engineering. The improved ASC-GIEC initiative: 1) created new credit-bearing, credential-focused core courses; 2) established career pathways in energy and mining; 3) developed common core curricula and education requirements across the five consortium colleges; 4) created an agreement between the consortium and Arizona State University to increase participation in high-demand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields; and 5) implemented technology and online courses.
Features of the Study
The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who participated in the ASC-GIEC program to students who did not participate. The treatment group consisted of 1,214 students who enrolled in an ASC-GIEC program at a consortium college during at least one semester from Fall 2012-Spring 2016, signed the ASC-GIEC intake consent form, and were at least 18 years old. The comparison group consisted of 50,706 from other Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at the consortium colleges in the same timeframe. Outcomes included completion rates and transfer rates to four-year colleges. Using data from the consortium's Student Information System (SIS), college-specific program documentation, the National Student Clearinghouse, and the ASC-GIEC program intake form, the authors examined differences in the outcomes between treatment and comparison groups. Tests of statistical significance were not performed for all outcomes.
- Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) in Avondale, Arizona
- Chandler Gilbert Community College (CGCC) in Chandler, Arizona
- Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Arizona
- Northland Pioneer College (NPC) in Holbrook, Arizona
- Yavapai College (YC) in Yavapai County, Arizona
Education and skills gain
- The study found that participation in the ASC-GIEC program was associated with higher completion rates versus the comparison group of students, on average, across all five consortium colleges (25% vs. 16%, respectively). However, the study did not include tests of statistical significance.
- The study found that participation in the ASC-GIEC led to no difference in transfer rates to a four-year college between the treatment and comparison groups, on average, across all five consortium colleges. This outcome did not include tests of statistical significance.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Although the authors report differences in completion and transfer rates between the treatment and comparison groups, the authors do not conduct tests of statistical significance on the data. Additionally, they do not provide detail on the other Career and Technical Education programs at the consortium colleges, so differences in the courses or student self-selection could explain the observed differences in outcomes. Furthermore, the authors did not account for preexisting differences between the groups before program participation or include sufficient control variables in their analysis, such as age, race/ethnicity, gender, a pre-intervention measure of degree of financial disadvantage, or a pre-intervention measure of education and training. These preexisting differences between the groups and not the ASC-GIEC 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. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ASC-GIEC program; other factors are likely to have contributed.