Effective Ways to Transition Adult Students to a College Education

Posted by on June 7th, 2016

As more adults engage in secondary learning opportunities, there is a continual need for effective transitions into post-secondary educational programs. States have adopted a number of strategies to address this growing need. Trends are focusing heavily on 1) implementation of state level transition pilot programs, 2) using data to inform policy and practice, 3) providing transition support through professional development activities, and 4) using advisory groups to guide transition initiatives. These trends, and other less prominent approaches, are demonstrated through a number of transition pathways:

Advisory Groups

Many states are forming advisory groups and task forces to address the transition from adult education to post-secondary options. Program staff and post-secondary leaders are working together to determine best practices for the design and implementation of transition services.



Some bridge programs are co-located at adult learning facilities and community colleges because these programs serve the same population. The centrally located programs eliminate distance concerns that may arise for students pursuing their next level of education.


Data Tracking

Data tracking tools allow programs and leaders to identify the holes during the educational journey for adult learners. Based on the data, gaps can be addressed with more effective tools.


Incentive Funding

Incentive funding is sometimes provided to adult learning programs for each of their students continuing a post-secondary education. Likewise, some states offer funding support to the learners themselves in the form of financial aid, even if attending a program part-time.


Professional Development and Career Pathing

Educational departments are teaming up with local labor councils to provide education, training and support for areas of high need. The adult learning programs are discussing careers, administering assessments and setting readiness goals with students prior to the transition.


Short Term Post-Secondary Certifications

Embedding short term certifications into associates degree programs gives students an option to have manageable goals and success while on track for a larger outcome.


Statewide Initiatives

Several states are examining the relationship between adult learning programs and community colleges. The assessment and resulting strategic plans lead to the design and implementation of more effective, collaborative programs.


The push is strong across the nation as states work to implement, expand and promote learning opportunities at the post-secondary level. From dedicated research investments to collaborative models, even to funding incentives, adult learning programs are answering the call to move students further along the educational pipeline. Policies are proving to provide an effective approach to college readiness programs and transition services. Curriculum, assessments and placement systems are knitting together for a more seamless method of linking adult education, post-secondary education and the workforce. These collective efforts and initiatives are leading to increasing numbers of adult learners continuing their education beyond the secondary level.

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