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A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Federal Job Training Investments in Community Colleges Open Access

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Community colleges, which are public, two-year institutions of higher education, have become a major provider of education and training that directly leads to a job in a particular occupation. To help community colleges build capacity to provide job training, the federal government has funded several grant programs over the past 15 years. Recent grant programs require the use the career pathways model, a framework for building a sequence of education and training steps that allow students to progressively learn skills and earn credentials, and advance in their careers in a particular occupation. This dissertation assesses the net present value to society of potential federal investments in job training at community colleges, using the career pathway model. It draws from the existing and proposed investments to create a hypothetical community college grant program from which an ex-ante cost-benefit analysis is conducted. Data from national surveys and previous studies are used to estimate the costs and benefits. Results show that the net present value to society is a net benefit over the life of the investment, mainly driven by earnings gains of students who attended job training at community colleges. To ensure federal investments in job training at community colleges are highly cost-beneficial, policymakers considering providing funding for similar efforts should require colleges to implement job training approaches that show some evidence that they can accelerate learning, and improve students’ labor market outcomes through better connections to employer demand.

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