Harnessing the Power of the Ability to Benefit: Creating College Access for Adult Learners

College of Southern Nevada — Goal 2 Initiative Harnessing the Power of the Ability to Benefit: Creating College Access for Adult Learners

The economic shutdown has displaced many workers in Southern Nevada, an economy which is heavily reliant on hospitality and tourism. Many minority communities in Southern Nevada have been significantly impacted by the pandemic in terms of healthcare, housing, food insecurity, mental health, and unemployment. These individuals who do not have a high school credential face significant limitations in their access to the college-level instruction that can lead to a credential of value, and in turn to gainful employment. Ability to Benefit will facilitate serving these "non-traditional" students that have historically been underserved or do not have the resources to access short term training through Workforce Education and Training programs, either for lack of resources to cover tuition costs or due to minimal resources to continue their career pathway that leads into a credit program and credentialing. 

Ability to Benefit can facilitate access to short-term skills certification training while obtaining "for credit" coursework via Integrated Education and Training (IET) models, while concurrently seeking their GED/High School Equivalency. This initiative not only expands the access to resources for currently enrolled students in IET, but will facilitate and empower those students to participate in stackable credentials with a long-term Career Pathway that can matriculate into transcripted credits for Certificates of Achievement, Associate Degrees, and Bachelor’s Degrees. This opportunity also provides resources for non-traditional/Workforce Development students to support them while in training with tuition, living expenses, and student support for matters that historically create a barrier and hardship. This assistance can impact the success of those currently enrolled as well as expand the number served in terms of access, retention, completion, and continuation of their career pathway by creating eligibility for traditional Financial Aid for which they otherwise would not have been eligible. 

Initiative Differentiators

Until recently the College of Southern Nevada did not have a fully formed noncredit-to-credit bridge for adult learners. This model creates a lasting impact on college access long after the pandemic recovery is realized. Following National Best Practices for Integrated Education and Training Models (IBEST/IET), this program provides concurrent High School Equivalency/GED and Workforce Skills Training for non-traditional Adult Learners.  

Over an 18-month period, the CSN Division of Workforce and Economic Development Adult Career and Education Services reorganized and restructured its program beyond stand-alone Basic Education courses, resulting in top-in-the-State performance for Title II recipients, securing an increase of $3 million in grant funding. They have now trained approximately 100 students in Workforce Skills Industry Certified Training in Manufacturing, Healthcare, Allied Trades, and Essential/Job Readiness Skills. 

Key Interventions and Milestones

The initiative establishes a short-term, credit-bearing programming that leads to industry credentials and/or stackable college credentials (skills certificate, certificate of achievement, etc.) that lead to gainful employment. Ability to Benefit secures funding (regional workforce board, governor's office, grants, etc.) to cover the registration/fees for participants' first 6 college credits (2 courses) that will allow students to demonstrate an "ability to benefit" per the federal financial aid definition. The program recruits participants to enroll utilizing CSN's newly launched EmployNV Career Hubs, designed to meet the tremendous need for training/upskilling of displaced workers in Southern Nevada. Collaboration with the Workforce System (WIOA) and SNAP/TANF entity of the Department of Health and Human Services has facilitated the leveraging of resources to remove barriers for those eligible and has enhanced support via "co-case management/coaching." 

Expected Impact

The program will increase enrollment, retention, and completion of the training to meet the needs of Southern Nevada workers and the economy. It will also provide data based on national averages and trends for similar populations nationwide. Over its duration, the initiative will expand the number of programs offered, number of credentials, and the number of job placements in the field of training pursued by students.