TOPEKA — The lowest number of people in five years enrolled in Kansas Adult Education programs in 2015, mirroring a nationwide enrollment decline in such programs.
However, that’s not due to a lack of residents who could benefit from it, according to the annual report on adult education, shared at this month’s Kansas Board of Regents meeting.
The program’s target audience includes more than 225,000 adults who lack a high school education and more than 57,000 adults with limited English proficiency, said Susan Fish, the Regents state director of Adult Education and College Readiness. Plus, some adults who do have high school diplomas still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills.
In 2015, 7,183 Kansans participated in Adult Education programs, according to the report. In 2010, 9,034 participated.
Fish said that nationally the decline in adult education enrollment has been even steeper than in Kansas.
However, the target population has declined over the years nationally and in Kansas, she said. For example, many adults who lack high school diplomas are of the older generation.
Kansas Adult Education describes its programs as “the first step in a career pathways system that meets the demands of the Kansas workforce for high skills and the needs of Kansas workers for high wages.” Instruction aims to improve quality of life and prepare adults for “industry recognized credentials and college certificates.”
The Kansas Adult Education programs overseen by the Regents are those receiving federal and state funding under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, or Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Fish said.
Kansas Adult Education programs are offered across a number of venues, including one in Douglas County. The Lawrence Public Schools' Adult Learning Center offers GED preparation and high school diploma completion programs.
Statewide, Kansas Adult Education programs are offered in 13 community colleges, five school districts, three technical colleges and through two community-based organizations, according to the report.
“We are one of the states that continues to have a very diverse delivery system,” Fish said. “We’re very lucky to have this mixture. I think there are places we wouldn’t be able to serve if we didn’t.”
Who are the adult students participating?
Their demographic breakdowns were nearly the same in 2015 as in previous years, according to the report.
• Employment status: 50 percent have jobs; 29 percent are unemployed; and 21 percent are not in the labor force.
• Level of education: 72 percent lack high school diplomas; 16 percent have diplomas; and a small percentage have some college or a full degree.
• Ethnicity: 40 percent are Hispanic; 35 percent are white; 11 percent are African-American; 9 percent are Asian; and a small percentage are multiracial or other races.
• Age: 47 percent are age 25 to 44; 23 percent are 19 to 24; 16 percent are 16 to 18; 11 percent are 45 to 59; and a small percentage are over 60.
One category of participants that has gone up in recent years is those who move on to postsecondary education within three years of completing their Adult Education work.
In 2008, 26 percent transitioned to higher ed, and in 2014 31 percent transitioned, according to the report.