Absence of conflict of interest.
Mississippi River Transportation, Distribution & Logistics Consortium. (2017). Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training grant final report. Retrieved from https://www.skillscommons.org/bitstream/handle/taaccct/14261/MRTDL%20Final%20Report_9_30_2017.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Mississippi River Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (MRTDL) Consortium’s grant-funded programs on education outcomes. This summary contains the findings from Southwest Tennessee Community College.
- The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students enrolled in programs enhanced through grant funding to those enrolled in a similar program at the same community college.
- The study found that the odds of program completion were significantly higher for participants in the grant-funded programs compared to participants in the comparison group.
- 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 MRTDL Consortium’s grant-funded programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Mississippi River Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (MRTDL) TAACCCT Program
Features of the Intervention
The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance for Community Colleges 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.
The Mississippi River Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (MRTDL) Consortium is comprised of nine community colleges across eight states (Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky). In 2013, the MRTDL consortium was awarded a TAACCCT grant to train workers for jobs in the transportation, distribution, and logistics sector. Building on previous funding from the American Association of Community Colleges grant, the project continued efforts to enhance economic development along the Mississippi River. Project goals included building and improving sector partnerships among community colleges, employers, workforce agencies, and other relevant stakeholders; revamping postsecondary programs by aligning program content and capacity with employer and industry needs; incorporating stacked and latticed credentials in programming that served the needs of TAA-eligible workers; and sharing and realizing the benefits of working in a consortium to foster collaboration and innovation. At the various community colleges in the MRTDL Consortium, the project either developed new degree pathways or improved existing ones in areas related to truck driving, aviation maintenance, and logistics technicians among others. Depending on the community college and the grant-funded program, screening was conducted on prospective participants to determine program eligibility. TAACCCT funding at Southwest improved an Industrial Technology training program and developed a new Advanced Industrial Logistics Technology degree pathway.
Features of the Study
The study took place at Southwest Tennessee Community College (Southwest) in Memphis, Tennessee. The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students enrolled in the grant-funded programs to those enrolled in a comparable program at Southwest. The grant-funded programs were matched to a comparable program that was similar in terms of being in the same department, having the same credit/non-credit status, having a similar program duration, and similar student demographic composition. The treatment group included 497 students enrolled in grant-funded programs between 2014 and 2016. The comparison group included 111 students enrolled in a short-term, non-credit certificate program that led to an Associate’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology during the same time period. Data sources included institutional data from the College Study Information System and self-reported data from participant intake forms and post-program completion surveys. The authors used a statistical model with controls for demographic and employment information to examine differences in program completion between the groups.
Education and skills gain
- The study found that grant-funded program participation was significantly related to higher odds of program completion where treatment participants were almost 4 times more likely to complete the program than participants in the comparison group.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors created a matched group of non-participating students to compare to participants enrolled in grant-funded programs at Southwest. However, the authors did not appropriately control for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and comparison groups, such as a pre-intervention measure of degree of financial disadvantage as required by the protocol. This preexisting difference between the groups—and not the MRTDL Consortium’s grant-funded programs—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 MRTDL Consortium’s grant-funded programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.