Welfare reforms of the 1990s moved thousands of single parents off the welfare rolls and into jobs. Their economic status nonetheless has remained fragile, as most of these jobs provided low wages, few benefits, and little opportunity for advancement. A major obstacle to better jobs has been that most of this population lacks the education and skills needed for economic advancement.
In response, researchers and practitioners have renewed the search for effective education and training (E&T) strategies for welfare recipients and other low-income adults. Building on studies of past E&T programs, reformers are focusing particularly on emerging innovations that address weaknesses in traditional instruction and help students balance school with work and family responsibilities.
Community colleges have become active laboratories for designing and testing these new approaches. One series of innovations has entailed building “bridge programs” to prepare disadvantaged adults to succeed in college. Another approach has been to restructure regular college classes to make it easier for students to balance school, work, and family responsibilities.