Pima Community College Pathways to Healthcare Program: Implementation and Early Impact Report

May 30, 2017
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE), 2007-2018 | Learn more about this project
Pima Community College Pathways to Healthcare Program: Implementation and Early Impact Report
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  • File Size 2mb
  • Pages 86
  • Published 2017


This report documents the implementation and early impacts of the Pathways to Healthcare program, operated by Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. Pathways to Healthcare is one promising effort to help low-income, low-skilled adults access and complete occupational training that can lead to increased employment and higher earnings. It is one of nine career pathways programs being evaluated under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families.

The Pathways to Healthcare program consists of five elements:

  1. the mapping of 16 existing healthcare occupational training programs into five pathways, each incorporating a ladder that enables students to obtain stackable credentials;
  2. proactive advising such as career counseling;
  3. scholarships for tuition and books;
  4. two compressed basic skills programs that in one semester remediate students whose low skills prevented them from enrolling directly in training; and
  5. job search assistance.

Using a rigorous research design, the study found that Pathways to Healthcare increased the hours of occupational training and the credentials its participants received within the 18-month follow-up period. Future reports will examine whether these effects translate into gains in employment and earnings.

Research Questions

  1. 1 Was the intervention actually implemented as designed?
  2. 2 How did services received differ between study participants who could access the Pathways to Healthcare program versus those who could not?
  3. 3 What were the effects of access to Pathways to Healthcare on short-term educational outcomes: hours of occupational training received, credits received, and credentials received?


The federal government projects that over the next 10 years, the fastest-growing occupations are in healthcare. Almost all jobs in healthcare require some level of postsecondary education or training. But many low-income, low-skilled adults face barriers to completing even short-term training for entry-level jobs.

Career pathways programs are designed to address barriers by providing well-defined training steps targeted to locally in-demand jobs, combined with a range of financial, academic, employment, and personal supports and services. To assess the effectiveness of a career pathways program such as Pathways to Healthcare, the PACE evaluation used an experimental design in which program applicants were assigned at random to a “treatment” group who can access the program or a “control” group who cannot, then compared their outcomes.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • The Pathways to Healthcare program was implemented mostly as intended. More than 60 percent of the treatment group participated in basic skills education or in occupational training. Nursing Assistant was the most commonly attended training.
  • The treatment group attended significantly more hours of occupational training (the primary outcome measured in this report) than the control group. This was primarily because the treatment group enrolled in occupational training more often—in healthcare-related training.
  • The treatment group was significantly more likely than the control group to participate in advising such as career counseling, to receive help arranging supports, and to receive job search assistance.
  • The treatment group earned significantly more college credentials (degrees, certificates) than the control group.


The Pathways to Healthcare evaluation’s implementation study examined the design and operation of the program and the treatment group’s participation patterns, and its impact study measured differences in education and training and employment outcomes.

From February 2012 to February 2014, more than 1,200 program applicants were randomly assigned to either the treatment or the control group. The impact study used data from a follow-up survey at 18 months after random assignment and administrative records from Pima Community College.

Prior to estimating Pathways to Healthcare impacts, the research team published an analysis plan that organized and disciplined the number of statistical tests conducted so as to avoid the problem of “multiple comparisons” in which a potentially large number of the tests could reach conventional levels of statistical significance by chance. To address this issue, the team established three categories of hypotheses (confirmatory, secondary, and exploratory) and publicly registered primary and secondary outcomes prior to starting analyses.


Pima Community College Pathways to Healthcare Program: Implementation and Early Impact Report - Appendices


Gardiner, K., Rolston, H., D., Fein, D. and S. Cho (2017). Pima Community College Pathways to Healthcare Program: Implementation and Early Impact Report, OPRE Report No. 2017-10, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019