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Adult Education Impacts National Priorities

What is Adult Education?

Adult education programs serve individuals, 16 years of age and older, who need to improve their basic skills with an emphasis on literacy, mathematics, and English language proficiency. Instructors work with each student to design an individual learning plan that aligns to their goals, such as to:

  • get, retain or advance in a job;
  • get off public assistance and earn a family-sustaining income;
  • complete high school or obtain a GED certificate;
  • transfer to a community college or training program;
  • help their children succeed in school;
  • manage their family’s healthcare; or
  • learn English, understand U.S. culture, and be an informed citizen.

What Is the Need for Adult Education?

Of the over 200 million adults (age 25+) in the United States in 2010: approximately 15% have NOT earned a high school diploma or an equivalent (American Community Survey) and 93 million function below the high school level according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. In 2008-2009, federally-funded adult education programs served nearly 2,400,000 students; more than 160,000 were placed on waiting lists for services in 2009-2010 (NCSDAE). 

How Effective Are Adult Education Programs? Very!

In 2006, the Office of Management and Budget rated adult education programs as “Effective”, their highest rating, saying, “The program recruits, retains, and assists more people from its target population at a lower cost than other [federally funded] job training programs”.  In 2009-2010, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Adult and Vocational Education invested $628 million in the education of nearly 2.4 million students, a mere $261 per student.

Adult Education Supports National Priorities

People with more education are more likely to get and keep jobs, lift themselves out of poverty, reduce health costs and take better care of their families. They are better equipped to support their children’s education and break cycles of illiteracy and poverty. Getting people the basic skills and training they need to reach their goals benefits them, their families, and the nation.

What’s the Issue?

Adult education and literacy is an invisible issue. It is often overlooked entirely even though it impacts national priorities. Learn more about adult education funding and the main legislation that provides for federally-funded adult education programs. Get more facts.

What Do We Need to Do?

We need to raise awareness of adult education issues nationwide, increase access to adult education services, reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act now, and make adult education and family literacy an integral part of the solution in addressing national priorities.

How Can You Help?

See what quick actions you can take now to support adult education:

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