ATLANTA — More than 10 million adults in the Southern Regional Education Board region do not have a high school diploma or GED credential and could benefit from adult learning programs that lead to better jobs and postsecondary training — yet very few of these adults are enrolled, a new SREB report finds.
Rising unemployment and the tough economy have created an urgent demand for high-quality adult learning programs in SREB states — yet the region had fewer working-age adults enrolled in these programs in 2008 than in 2005.
While the number of adults 18 and over who took the GED tests rose from 2005 to 2008 for the SREB region and in many states, only about 1.5 percent of adults without a high school credential earned GED credentials in 2008. Much greater enrollment is needed in many states, and modest investments in these programs will pay off, the report outlines.
"Quite simply, the economic well-being of our region is at stake if we allow the growing group of less-educated, working-age adults to expand further," SREB President Dave Spence said. "Where better-trained workers live, good jobs will follow."
The report, A Smart Move in Tough Times: How SREB States Can Strengthen Adult Learning and the Work Force, was released today during a Webinar for journalists. It notes that for the past five years, the region has been caught in an employment crisis in which the least-educated adults in the SREB region often were stuck in dead-end jobs or not employed at all.
Some SREB states have boosted adult learning by reorganizing state agencies and adding funding, but others should take similar action. State programs need to serve more adults who did not complete ninth grade or dropped out of high school, including those with poor English language skills. Statewide goals for adult learning and better coordination among state agencies also are needed, the report says.
States that make even a modest investment in adult learning programs will see the programs pay off. "The costs are truly minimal, considering the likely return on investment," Spence said.
Employment rates, annual earnings — and tax revenues to the state — rise significantly for adults with high school credentials. The employment rate in the SREB median state in 2008 was 16 percentage points higher for adults with high school credentials than for those without them, the new report shows.
A few highlights:
Florida served more adults in the three main types of adult learning programs combined than any other SREB state in 2008, including 21 percent of the region’s adults who were enrolled in Adult Basic Education (ABE), 16 percent of those in Adult Secondary Education (ASE) and 41 percent in English as a Second Language (ESL).
Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina were the only three SREB states with enrollment gains in all three types of programs from 2005 to 2008. Four SREB states had enrollment declines in all three programs: Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
For more information on adult learning in your state, contact SREB Communications.
The Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB, based in Atlanta, was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help leaders in education and government work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB has 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. More information is available online at www.sreb.org.