Facilitating Postsecondary Education and Training for TANF Recipients

Publication Date: March 15, 2012


Increasing education among low-income parents is a vital component of policies to improve families’ economic status. Educational attainment matters: between 1979 and 2005, wages for those with college and advanced degrees rose by 22 and 28 percent, respectively, while wages for high school graduates remained stagnant and wages for high school dropouts fell by 16 percent. Overall, people who complete an associate’s degree or certificate program earn more than those with just a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) certificate, and those who complete even one year of college earn more than those without the additional education. But only a third of low-wage, low-income workers with children have more than a high school diploma and another third are high school dropouts. Moreover, the strong association between postsecondary education and higher earnings does not necessarily mean that facilitating access to higher education among low-income adults will lead to earnings gains, particularly considering that many lack recent or successful school experiences.

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