Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement: Implementation and Early Impact Report

Publication Date: December 6, 2017
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Research Questions

  1. What was the actual implementation of the intervention? Did it deviate from plans or expectations?
  2. What were the students’ participation patterns and experiences with program services?
  3. What were the main effects of VIDA on educational attainment, including college credits received, credentials received, and other educational outcomes?

This report provides evidence on the implementation and early impacts of one promising effort to meet the needs of low-income students and local employers for skilled workers, the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA). VIDA, a community-based organization, is one of nine career pathways programs in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families.

VIDA’s primary goal is for participants to graduate with an associate’s degree or industry-recognized certificate in a high-demand occupation and find employment that pays a living-wage. VIDA supports full-time enrollment at local colleges through required attendance at weekly intensive counseling sessions, as well as through substantial financial assistance. For participants who are not college-ready, VIDA offers an accelerated basic skills academy.

Using a rigorous research design, the study found that the VIDA program significantly increased the total number of college credits earned within a 24-month follow-up period. These effects are among the largest observed in rigorous studies of programs intended to increase low-income students’ enrollment and completion of post-secondary education. The program also increased rates of full-time college enrollment, enrollment more generally, and summer school enrollment. Finally, it increased the attainment of college credentials. Future reports will examine whether these effects translate into gains in employment and earnings.


Low-income workers with only a high school education face poor and declining employment prospects. Postsecondary training, often at community colleges, offers one strategy for improving this population’s education and employment opportunities, especially if targeted to occupations where there is high and growing demand for skilled workers. Policymakers, workforce development organizations, educators, and other key stakeholders are interested in how to facilitate a better match between the nation’s need for a skilled workforce and the needs of low-income adults for employment.

The intention of programs like VIDA is to address these issues by providing well-articulated training and employment steps targeted to locally in-demand jobs, combined with a range of supports. Policymakers and practitioners have shown great interest in the career pathways approach. But, to date, limited rigorous research is available on its effects on participants’ educational and economic outcomes. To assess the effectiveness of a program such as VIDA, the PACE evaluation uses an experimental design—that is, randomly assigning study participants to a “treatment” group who can access the program and a “control” group who cannot, then comparing their outcomes.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • VIDA staff and participants described the program as a set of services, obligations and incentives.
  • VIDA’s direct assistance with tuition and related training expenses averaged almost $7,000 per participant.
  • Training for nursing and allied health professions were the most common programs attended, followed by education, social services, and specialized trades programs.1
  • The treatment group earned significantly more college credits than the control group.
  • VIDA significantly increased rates of full-time college enrollment and enrollment more generally.
  • The treatment group members earned significantly more college credentials.


The VIDA evaluation includes an implementation study that examines the design and operation of the program and participation patterns of participants and an impact study that uses an experimental design to measure the differences in education and employment outcomes.

Between November 2011 and September 2014, the evaluation randomly assigned 958 program applicants to either the treatment or the control group. Data sources were: a follow-up survey conducted approximately 20 months after random assignment, and administrative records from VIDA and college records from the local colleges that almost all VIDA participants and control group members attended. The evaluation also included site visits to document program implementation and operations. Prior to estimating VIDA impacts, the research team published an analysis plan specifying key hypotheses and outcome measures.


Rolston, H., Copson, E., and Gardiner, K. (2017). Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement: Implementation and Early Impact Report, OPRE Report #2017-83, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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