Adult Education and Literacy in Virginia

Virginia Association of for Adult and Continuing Education

February 2008

I was an equipment operator. When I graduated, I moved to supervisor, from there up to Transportation Operations Manager. The GED was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Eugene Rush, GED graduate,
Esmont, VA

What is Adult Education and Literacy?

Adult Education and Literacy provides services for adults who lack basic skills, a high school diploma, or proficiency in English. Programs are primarily funded through Title II of the Workforce Investment Act. In 2005, Virginia received $12,948,119 in Federal funds. The average amount spent per student was $614, (nearly $200 less than the national average as reported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education).

How does the community benefit from Adult Education and Literacy?

A GED graduate earns an average of $23,300, per year, 62% or $8,900 more than someone with no high school diploma. The average tax payment for a Virginia GED graduate was $9,867 in 2004-05.

GED graduates require fewer social services than those with no high school diploma; these services include welfare benefits, unemployment compensation, medical costs, and institutionalization.

What about classes for non-native English speakers?

Adult Education and Literacy is the principal provider of English language classes. These classes not only help immigrants learn English to become better workers, but they teach the American culture, history, tradition, and customs enabling immigrants to be better supporters of their children’s education and more active in the larger community.

Because of English class, I know more words and can do a better job at work. I try to say English words to my babies.
(ESL student)

Adult Education is more than a Workforce Training Program.

Nationally, only 39% of adult learners listed the desire to get a job as the reason they were in class. The work of adult education and literacy positively impacts K-12 education, welfare reform, public health, English literacy, older Americans, incarceration rates, employment, and economic development. It is consumer oriented. Some adult learners want a better job; others want to help children be successful in school, while others need assistance with health issues.

The Delivery System

Currently, the best qualified candidate at the local level is awarded funding through competitive applications from the Virginia Department of Education. Providers are primarily public school systems, but do include some community colleges. This flexibility allows for innovation, such as programs that target youth, focus on family, health, or financial literacy.

A critical factor to consider in evaluating the delivery system for adult education programs is the value of in-kind services that are currently provided by localities through their school divisions. Without that consideration, the true cost of providing services is seriously underestimated.

What can be done to improve Adult Education and Literacy Services?

  1. Increase funding so that more adults can be served. As the Race to GED funding has shown, increased funding leads to better results. In 2005, 13,928 Virginians passed the GED test; in 2006, 15,073 passed, an 8% increase (VADOE).
  2. Institute transition classes for adult learners interested in higher education. Although the majority of GED graduates say they plan to go on to higher education, only 12% complete 1 year in the community college.
  3. Promote workplace programs by sharing the cost burden with employers and increasing incentives for employers who provide education and training for employees. Many adults cannot attend classes due to work schedules and family demands. Incentives for businesses to implement onsite education and training programs would increase access to classes for a hard to reach population.
  4. Prioritize Title I of Workforce Investment Act funding to serve unemployed citizens who lack a high school diploma through education and job training. The long-term savings in increased wage and tax revenue to Virginia coupled with decreased spending on services will give the highest return on investment.

Adult Education and Literacy needs to maintain its unique identity providing targeted educational services to the most underserved adults in Virginia. A strong local delivery system anchored in a competitive application process has proven to be effective. Adult Education and Literacy needs increased funding to enhance and increase existing services.

VAACE Contact Information:

Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education (VAACE)
c/o Anita H. Prince, Ph.D., President
11020 Woodland Pond Parkway
Chesterfield, VA 23238