Absence of conflict of interest
Bellville et al. (2017). WV Bridging the gap TAACCCT round 3: Final evaluation report. Indianapolis, IN: Thomas P. Miller & Associates.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Bridging the Gap (BTG) program on education, employment, and earnings outcomes.
- The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of BTG participants to a matched comparison group.
- The study found that BTG participation was significantly associated with fewer credits earned and higher dropout rates, but significantly associated with higher credential attainment relative to the comparison group.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this study 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 Bridging the Gap program, but other factors might also have contributed.
Accelerated Study in the West Virginia Bridging the Gap (BTG) 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, a consortium of nine community and technical colleges led by BridgeValley Community and Technical College received a grant to fund the Bridging the Gap (BTG) program. The BTG program aimed to increase the number of qualified, employable candidates in advanced manufacturing, energy, construction, and information technology. The goal was to expand certificate offerings and accelerate credential attainment for low-income, disadvantaged workers and unemployed individuals. Key features of the BTG program included enhanced and accelerated sector-driven career pathways; incorporation of evidence-based practices (e.g., prior learning assessment); contextualized, online, blended, simulated, and remote academic instruction; and expanded and customized student support strategies (e.g., professional counselor, job placement and other career services, and services to address barriers to participating in the programs).
Features of the Study
The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who were in the BTG program to those who were not. The author matched BTG participants to similar nonparticipants using propensity scores developed from baseline demographic information. Across the nine colleges, study participants included 1,808 students. The treatment group included 850 students who enrolled in the grant-funded BTG program from January 2014 to July 2016. The comparison group was a historical cohort composed of 958 students that were enrolled from January 2012 to July 2014 in the same or similar programs. Data sources included the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission student administrative records, WorkForce WV unemployment insurance wage records, and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The authors conducted statistical models to examine differences between the groups in credits earned, persistence, degree/credential completion, employment, and earnings.
- Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, West Virginia
- BridgeValley Community and Technical College in Kanawha County, West Virginia
- Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College in Moorefield, West Virginia
- Mountwest Community and Technical College in Huntington, West Virginia
- New River Community and Technical College in Summersville, West Virginia
- Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont, West Virginia
- Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in Logan, West Virginia
- West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling, West Virginia
- West Virginia University at Parkersburg in Parkersburg, West Virginia
Education and skills gain
- The study found that BTG participants were significantly less likely to accumulate required credits (approximately 6%) than comparison group participants.
- The study also found that BTG participants were significantly more likely to drop out of their academic programs (13.5%) than comparison group participants.
- However, the study found that BTG participants were significantly more likely to obtain an academic certificate/degree (6%) in their field than comparison group participants (2%).
Earnings and wages
- The study found no significant differences in earnings outcomes between the two groups.
- The study found no significant differences in employment outcomes between the two groups.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors compared the outcomes of BTG students to those of a historical comparison group, and it is possible that the outcomes were influenced by differing economic and contextual conditions. Although the authors accounted for differing economic conditions by including data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, factors that could have caused differing academic conditions were not accounted for in the models. Also, the timeframe of the study was too short to accurately observe employment and earnings outcomes, especially for later cohorts.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study 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 Bridging the Gap program, but other factors might also have contributed.