Working Learners Report

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Learning While Earning:The New NormalAnthony P. Carnevale Nicole Smith Michelle Melton Eric W. Price Centeron Educationand the WorkforceMcCourt School of Public Policy2015

Learning While Earning:The New Normal2015

ContentsACKNOWLEDGEMENTS6PORTRAITS OFWORKING LEARNERS8SUMMARY10SUMMARY TABLE13INTRODUCTION14The rise in the number of working learners is anatural evolution of our work-based society.15Early work experience forms good habits andhelps students make career connections.18More attention should be paid to thepathways from education to work.19Four rules are important for understanding theconnections between postsecondary programs and careers.14THE RISE OFWORKINGLEARNERS20College enrollment has increased from2 million to 20 million in 60 years.21Working learners are more concerned about enhancingrésumés and gaining work experience than paying for tuition.WHO AREWORKINGLEARNERS?24Young working learners (16-29) make very different decisionscompared to mature working learners (30-54) when it comes tomajors selected, hours worked, and career choices.2427Nearly 60 percent of working learners are women.28Young working learners are disproportionately white, whilemature working learners are disproportionately African-American.30Mature working learners are more likely tobe married with family responsibilities.32Mature working learners are concentrated in open-admissioncommunity colleges and for-profit colleges and universities whileyoung working learners tend to go to more selective institutions.33Young working learners are more likely to selecthumanities and social sciences majors while matureworking learners select healthcare and business.35Mature working learners are more likely to beworking full-time, but over a third of young workinglearners work more than 30 hours per week while enrolled.20

ContentsPOLICYIMPLICATIONS4739Mature working learners earnmore than young working learners.43Working learners have less studentdebt than students who do not work.45Forty-five percent of young working learners earn200 percent of the poverty treshold ( 23,540) or less.48After graduating, working learners are upwardly mobileand more likely to move into managerial positions.50Working learners need stronger ties between theworlds of work and education. Among all programs forworking learners in postsecondary institutions, learningand earning is the common currency.51The data system that connects postsecondary fields of studyand degrees with labor market demands is still a work in progress.53Available career counseling in colleges is very limited and israrely based on any data about the economic value of college majors.54Tying career outcomes to fields of studyis still an afterthought in postsecondary policy.54The traditional Bachelor’s degree-centric model haslimited utility in a world focused on workforce development.56Working learners need competency-based postsecondarycurricula that drill down below overall degree attainment andprograms of study to the cognitive and non-cognitive competenciesrequired for them to move along particular occupational pathways.57The relationship between postsecondary fields of studyand careers is only a rough proxy for a deeper and moredynamic relationship between competencies taught inparticular curricula and competencies required toadvance in particular occupationally based careers.58The overlap between postsecondary educationand career learning is a huge uncharted territory.59Existing policies inside and outside the postsecondary policyrealm could be altered to be of greater assistance to working learners.REFERENCES60APPENDIX:DATA SOURCES67

AcknowledgementsWe would like to express our gratitude to the individuals and organizations whose generoussupport has made this report possible: Lumina Foundation (Jamie Merisotis and HollyZanville), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Daniel Greenstein and Jennifer Engle), andthe Joyce Foundation (Matthew Muench). We are honored to be partners in their mission ofpromoting postsecondary access and completion for all Americans.Many have contributed their thoughts and feedback throughout the production of this report.We are grateful for our talented designers, meticulous editorial advisers, and trusted printerswhose tireless efforts were vital to our success.In addition, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce staff wasinstrumental to production of this report, from conceptualization to completion. Our thanksespecially go to the following individuals: Jeff Strohl for research direction; Andrea Porter for strategic guidance; Megan Fasules, Artem Gulish, Andrew R. Hanson, and Tamara Jayasunderafor data compilation and analysis, and for fact-checking; Ana Castanon, Monet Clark, Victoria Hartt, Hilary Strahota,and Martin Van Der Werf for communications efforts,including design, editorial, and public relations; and Coral Castro and Joseph Leonard for assistancewith logistics and operations.We would also like to thank ACT Foundation for its support of this report. We especiallythank Tobin Kyte and Marcy Drummond for providing insight to the report and fostering apartnership between our organizations. We support ACT Foundation’s mission as it advancessolutions for working learners to integrate working, learning, and living to increase quality oflife and achieve education and career success.We also wish to thank Dr. Felicito “Chito” Cajayon, the vice chancellor of workforce & economicdevelopment at the Los Angeles Community College District; Milo Anderson; and Scott Ralls,the president of Northern Virginia Community College; his executive assistant Corinne Hurst;and Kerin Hilker-Balkissoon, the executive director of college and career pathways at NorthernVirginia Community College. All helped the authors contact mature working learners for thisreport.Finally, we sincerely thank the working learners who gave so generously of their time to helpshape the tone of the project in its formative stages. We have a greater appreciation for thechallenges faced by working learners and the opportunities they have. This report benefitedenormously from our conversations with them.The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of LuminaFoundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, ACT Foundation or their officers or employees.

Portraits of Working LearnersWorking while learning is now the accepted pathway to educationand training for both young and mature working learners.When working with aggregate data, it’s easy to lose sight of the voices and experiences of the people being studied.As part of the research for this report, the authors interviewed a number of actual working learners — some of whomwere members of the ACT Foundation Working Learner Advisory Council — and utilized their personal experiencesand stories to illuminate the report and to develop policy proposals that would satisfy their needs. The following aresome of the individuals who helped to provide insight into the lives of today’s working learners:Morgan Lamborn, a young working learner, is enrolled part-time in aMaster of Business Administration program at a four-year public doctorate-granting university where she works full-time as an admissions officer.Hometown: Lake Placid, Fla.Morgan Lamborn on working learner time constraints:“Time is the biggest challenge. There are never enough hours in the day. So working onmy Master’s right now is a lot; it’s being pulled in 62 directions at once, every single day.”Thierry Pierre-Charles, a young working learner, is enrolled full-time in a Bachelor’sdegree program at a four-year public doctorate-granting university. His self-designedmajor is in biomedical science and policy, with a focus on pre-medical studies and scientificstudies. He works part-time as a transition specialist assisting people with disabilities.Hometown: Miramar, Fla.Thierry Pierre-Charles on working learner isolation:“I knew that I would end up having to work, because my parents weren’t in a position to support me. It kind ofimpacts you mentally because you really don’t have too much social interaction — you know you can’t go out and havefun. But the only reason I even kept doing it is because I didn’t have anything else to fall back on.”Heather Jones, a mature working learner, is enrolled part-time at a two-year public technicalcollege. She works full-time at the corporate office of a large bank. She is taking classes for self-enrichment and is not enrolled in a degree-granting program. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from afour-year private doctorate-granting college 15 years ago.Hometown: Burbank, Calif.Heather Jones on working learner needs:“Orientation days. How great that would be if there was something offered specifically fornon-traditional aged students! You know it would be designated a certain name; they wouldhave specific resources, and specific contacts.”

Portraits of Working LearnersLandon Taylor is a young working learner. He is married and has two children and is enrolledfull-time in a Bachelor’s Degree program at a four-year public non-doctorate-granting university.His major is public relations and advertising. He works part-time during the day for a technologyconsulting firm as a business development coordinator, and part-time in the evening asa server at a restaurant.Hometown: Oakland, Calif.Landon Taylor on the motivations of working learners:“Society tells you that if you have kids while you’re in school, your life is over — you’ve got to basically give up yourdreams. I believe the exact opposite. I think your children should inspire you to do great things. And that’s whatthey’ve done. I can’t wait till when they’re older, to be able to tell them everything that we went through to makesure that they had a great life.”Yadira Gurrola, a young working learner, is enrolled full-time in a Bachelor’s degree programat a four-year public college. Her major is social work and she is also pursuing a certification tobecome a pharmacy technician. She works part-time at a discount retail superstore as a store manager,monitoring cash registers and the service desk, and assisting the pharmacy.Hometown: Scottsbluff, Neb.Yadira Gurrolla on working learner perseverance:“It feels good to know that I can pay for my phone. I can pay for my gas. I can pay for my clothes. I can pay foreverything that I need. This is, I guess, in my heart. This is me; this is my story. I know what my next step is. Aslong as I can get there and keep going on, that’s kind of my ambition.”Milo Anderson, a mature working learner, is enrolled part-time in a certificate programat a two-year public technical college. His focus is in business administration. He earned aBachelor’s degree from a four-year public non-doctorate-granting university 10 years ago.Hometown: Canoga Park, Calif.Milo Anderson on the stigmas faced by working learners:“There is a stigma to going back to college. It’s sort of frowned upon. I think what I’d like to see, as more of ageneral change in mindset, is more acceptance of the fact that education is a lifelong process. I’m going backto school and I can see people’s expression change, like, ‘Oh. So, you’re 31 and still not doing anything withyour life?’ That’s the kind of negative mindset I’d like to see shifted.”

SummaryFor decades, the popular conception of abusiness sector in order to build attractivecollege student in this country has beenplaces to live, work, and study.the full-time residential financially dependentstudent who enrolls in a four-year collegeIn this report, we examine the students whoimmediately after graduating from high school.are combining work with ongoing learning.We find that:But that student has not been the norm at U.S.postsecondary institutions for more than 30 Going to college and working whileyears. Such students exist but they are greatlydoing so is better than going straightoutnumbered by working learners: studentsto work after high school. Many peoplewho balance learning in college with earningargue that it’s better to go to work than to goa college, particularly from the perspectiveof lost potential wages while in school.In the United States today, nearly 14 millionOur findings show clearly that studentspeople – 8 percent of the total labor forcewho complete college degrees while workingand a consistent 70 percent to 80 percent ofare more likely over time to transition tocollege students – are both active in the labormanagerial positions with higher wages thanmarket and formally enrolled in some form ofpeople who go straight into full-time workpostsecondary education or training.1 Theseafter high school.programs include degree-granting programs,such as Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree Working while attending college hurtsprograms, non-degree granting programs, anddisadvantaged students the most.certification and vocational training programs.This is because working learners of lowersocioeconomic status are more likely to workIn the 21st century economy, skills have becomefull-time and attend under-resourced open-the most important currency in job markets.admission community colleges. There is aToday, workers need the right postsecondarywidespread consensus that working too muchpreparation to gain a foothold and prosperwhile enrolled in a postsecondary programin the labor market, employers need highlyhurts one’s chances of completing it. It is notskilled postsecondary talent in order to remainclear, however, whether low completion ratescompetitive, and communities need both aamong working learners employed full-time ishighly skilled workforce and a competitivedue to working more, having access to fewer1Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data,2012-2013.

Learning While Earning: The New Normal educational and support services, the relevanceupgrading their credentials to keep up withof the program to their career, or other barriersthe requirements of their jobs, to earn aassociated with socioeconomic status.2promotion, or to retrain for a new career.Working and learning simultaneously undergraduates and 76 percent of graduatework in jobs related to what they study.students work at least 30 hours a week.Work experience also becomes an asset thatAbout 25 percent of all working learnersworking learners carry with them as they enterare simultaneously employed full-time andthe full-time job market, accelerating theirenrolled in college full-time. Adding to theirlaunch into full-time careers.3have children. You can’t work your way throughFrom 1989 to 2008, between 70 percent andcollege anymore. A generation ago,80 percent of undergraduates were employed.students commonly saved for tuition byBy 2012, that share declined to 62 percent dueworking summer jobs. But the cost of collegeto the job losses associated with the 2007-now makes that impossible. A student working2009 recession.4 Students work whether theyfull-time at the federal minimum wage wouldare in high school or college; whether theyearn 15,080 annually before taxes. That isn’tare rich, poor, or somewhere in between;enough to pay tuition at most colleges, muchwhether they are young and inexperiencedless room and board and other expenses.or mature and experienced. stress, about 19 percent of all working learnersMost students are working. Studentsare workers and workers are students.More people are working full-timewhile in college. About 40 percent ofhas benefits, especially when students 11 Students are working and taking outOne-third of working learners are 30more loans to pay for college.or older. Mature working learners (agesThe nation has yet to figure out how to pay30-54) primarily comprise workers whofor this new stage in the transition from youthhave a postsecondary credential but aredependency to adult independence and family2Working in high school is bad for student outcomes but outcomes are much more complicated for college students. For thosewho complete a degree, working while in college can yield many long-run advantages, especially if students work in a field directlyrelated to their course of study.3Bailey et al,. Redesigning America’s Community Colleges. 2015. Working in field is especially relevant for fields of study that have directties to occupations such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and healthcare, or Associate’s degreesin applied sciences. Carnevale et al., Certificates, 2012, show that working in field adds 37 percent to wages of workers with apostsecondary vocational certificate.4See Table 1.

12Learning While Earning: The New Normalformation. Public funding of postsecondary education at both the state and federallevels is declining. This trend has resulted in the rapid increase in the amount ofoutstanding student loan debt, from 240 billion in 2003 to 1.2 trillion today.5Policy implications Working learners need stronger ties between the world of workand the world of education. In spite of the centrality of career goals as themotivation to get a college degree, students are left largely on their own to connecttheir postsecondary education choices to an increasingly complex set of careeroptions.6 To improve the connections between work and learning, federaland state policymakers should fund postsecondary education, inpart, based on performance measured by labor market outcomes.Historically, the public has funded postsecondary education and trainingprograms based on enrollment. In this system, regionally-accredited institutionsreceive public funding in proportion to the size of their student body. However,many states have recently embraced performance-based funding models, underwhich institutions are awarded for achieving outcomes measured by outcomestandards set by policymakers. Policymakers should also invest in competency-based educationprograms that teach skills with labor market value. Mature workinglearners in particular have developed competencies through work that are notrecognized by postsecondary education and training institutions because theywere not learned in a classroom environment. Competency-based educationprograms recognize and award credit for prior learning, which allows workinglearners to learn efficiently and potentially to accelerate their progress througheducation and training programs.5Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from the Federal ReserveBank of New York, 2003-2014.6Bailey et al., Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, 2015.

Summary TableYoung working learner,16-29 years oldMature working learners,30-54 years old*67%33%56% women59% womenDisproportionately whiteDisproportionately AfricanAmerican26% food and personalservices occupations12% food and personalservices occupations6% in managerial occupations17% in managerial occupationsSocial sciences, humanities,business, and otherapplied fieldsHealthcare, business, andother applied fields40%76%Common degree programBachelor’s degreeCertificate/Associate’s degreeInstitutional sectorFour-year collegesCommunity colleges andfor-profit collegesShare with children20%61%Wages above 42,000per year9%42%Between 7,500 and 42,000 per year58%46%Less than 7,500 per year33%12%Wages above 42,000per year10%8%Between 7,500 and 42,000 per year67%53%Less than 7,500 per year23%39%ShareSexRace/ethnicityCommon occupationsCommon majorsWages whileenrolledWages aftercompletingBachelor’s degreeShare working full timeSource: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Review, 2012 andNational Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health waves 3 and 4, 2001-2009.***A small share of working learners (3%) is over 55 years old and is generally excluded in the analysis of this report.The federal poverty line varies by household size. In 2015, an income of 23,540 represents 200 percent of the federal poverty line for a single individual.

14Learning While Earning: The New NormalIntroductionThe rise in the number of working learners is a natural evolutionof our work-based society.Work always has been, and continues to be,Nowadays one goes nowhere after high schoola central component of American culture.unless he or she gets at least some college.8 OnAmericans work more hours than anyone elseaverage, because of the new postsecondary humanin the developed world. Work provides incomecapital requirements for formal learning and workthat is the primary means to access the goodsexperience, the age at which young workers reachand services necessary for a middle-classthe median wage has increased from 26 to 30.9 Instandard of living, but it is more than that.other words, the period of transition from youthThe jobs that individuals perform are adependency to adult independence has growncentral part of their identity.from seven to 11 years.Work used to be the primary means of financingThat kind of career bootstrapping is morea college education. In the 1950s, collegevisible than ever on campuses. Not only dostudents represented a small share of thecolleges include growing numbers of studentspopulation and many college students financedwho need work (working learners), but moretheir tuition by working summer jobs. Sinceand more experienced workers who also needthen, going to college has become much morecollege (learning workers). The transitionwidespread – and much more expensive. Theinto a career is no longer linear. The systemnumber of college students has increased fromof education for youth leading to informal2.4 million in 1949 to 20 million in 2014.learning on-the-job has been replaced by7an expectation of lifelong learning and theThe lockstep march from school to work no longercontinuous upgrading of skills required to adaptapplies for a growing share of Americans. Manyto new workplace technologies and evolvingyoung adults are taking longer to launch theiroccupational the shift from a high school-centeredeconomy to a postsecondary-centered economyAt the same time, the summer job markethas added a new phase to the lifecycle. In thehas collapsed. In the 1970s, more than halfindustrial economy high school was enough.of youth in their late teens were employed in7Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics’Digest of Education Statistics tables, 2013.8At best, 20 percent of high school educated men have access to middle-class careers with what is left of the old industrialcareer track. See Carnevale et al., Career Clusters, 2011.9Carnevale et al., Failure to Launch, 2013.

Learning While Earning: The New Normal15Internships. Half of graduatingcollege seniors report havingworked as interns.summer jobs; today, only 30 percent are.10 Sothe old picture of students working and savingall summer so they can study full-time duringthe school year is now quite rare.The Economic Policy Institute estimates there areabout 2 million interns in the U.S. labor force (1.3percent of the 155 million workers in the labor force).Internships are tailored mostly to four-year collegestudents while they are enrolled or shortly afterA persistent question for parents and educatorsthey graduate and enter the full-time labor market.has been whether work harms educationalColleges and universities typically award academicperformance or expectations for furthercredit for internships and frequently match studentseducation. The general answer has beento internships and provide oversight of the intern-that working more than 15 to 20 hours per weekemployer relationship. Roughly half of college seniorscan harm academic performance and educationalnationally said they completed an internship whileaspirations, especially amongenrolled, suggesting that roughly one million collegehigh school students. But these findings oftenstudents are employed as interns.11rely on heavily descriptive data. More nuancedanalyses suggest a more complicated picture.Early work experience forms goodhabits and helps students make careerconnections.Internships provide on-the-job training and relevantwork experience that prepare future workers foroccupations in a particular industry or career field.Interns also acclimate themselves to a professionalsetting; acquire letters of recommendation forfuture entry-level jobs and graduate-level programsThe effect of work on students depends on theof study; and form professional networks they canstudent and the work. Work helps pay living costspotentially leverage into high-paying jobs later in theirin high school and some share of educationalcareers. Internships also serve as an opportunity tocosts after high school. In general, work — eventest whether particular career fields are of interestmenial work — promotes skills such as timeto the interns at minimal cost to themselves or theirmanagement, communications, and conflictemployers.resolution, as well as many other soft skillsnecessary for success in the workforce. Work canEvidence shows that internships pay off in the longalso be a meaningful alternative entry into therun. The starting annual salary for college graduatesadult world, providing an escape into relevancewho completed a paid internship was 52,000,compared to 36,000 for those who completed anunpaid internship and 37,000 for those who didnot complete an internship. Furthermore, the share10Desilver, “The fading of the teen summer job,” 2015.11Dundes and Marx, Balancing Work and Academics in College, 2006of college graduates who received a job offer was 63

16Learning While Earning: The New Normalfrom the abstract grinding rigors of schooling.percent for those who completed a paid internship,Work can also be a personal and occupationalcompared to 37 percent for those who completed anexploration connecting individual interests,unpaid internship and 35 percent for those who didvalues, and personality with academic fields ofnot complete an internship.†study leading to particular careers.12The benefits are not so clear, however, when theBut the effects of work differ by studentinternships are unpaid. Many students engagedcharacteristics both in high school and even morein disciplines such as politics, policy, arts,so in college. Low-income students, especially low-entertainment, and journalism often participate inincome African Americans and Hispanics, tend tounpaid internships as a necessary rite of passageexperience the more negative effects of workingfor entry-level workers. However, there are strongon their educational achievement and educationalallegations that these internships are prone toattainment. This appears to be the result ofnepotism and that, because young adults from low-a lack of counseling, social capital, and otherincome family backgrounds cannot afford to takesupports that are typically associated with a higherunpaid positions, their access to careers in thesesocioeconomic status or more selective colleges.13industries is limited. The Economic Policy InstituteThe effects of work and learning also depend onhas proposed subsidizing unpaid internships forthe nature of the work. A job is more powerful asstudents from low-income families through thean educational tool when it provides exploratoryFederal Work-Study grant program to address theselearning that supplements or complementsconcerns. The recent public scrutiny of unpaida student’s field of study. This is crucial ininternships has sufficed, in some cases, to encouragegraduate education, where fields of study areemployers to either pay their interns, as the Nationmost tightly tied to careers. It is more complexInstitute and Atlantic Media did, or to end theirat the baccalaureate level, where educational andinternship programs altogether, as in the case ofcareer exploration is still fresh, especially amongthe mass-media company Condé Nast. Under theyounger students with less work experience. A jobassumption that internships are mutually beneficialis most likely to be complementary to academicto employers, postsecondary institutions, and internsskills for the 80 percent of baccalaureate majorsthemselves, these new trends represent a cause forpursuing career-related majors such as science,concern. However, recent evidence questioning thetechnology, engineering, and mathematicsvalue of unpaid internships suggests their decline(STEM), business, education, and healthcare.1412Hobson, Is Work Good for Your Health and Well-Being?, 200713Carnevale et al., Separate and Unequal, 201314Carnevale et al., The Economic Value of College Majors, 2015may not carry a significant negative impact.†Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysisof data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2013.

Learning While Earning: The New Normal17Tying learning content to work experience isdisproportionately enrolled in career-orientedmore problematic at the Associate’s degreemajors, such as healthcare and business.level. More than half of Associate’s degrees areAssociate of Arts (AA) degrees with no obviousrelevance to specific occupations or industries. ButAssociate of Science (AS) or Associate of AppliedScience (AAS) degrees, which have a direct tieto occupation or industry, comprise a largeshare of Associate’s degrees. The same is true ofthe 12 million certificates produced every year.Moreover, substantial shares of programs havedirect connections to industry-based certificationsand licenses that provide a “workaday” focus forcollege programs and course clusters.Young and mature working learners’experiences vary: Young working learners are more likely to beenrolled in baccalaureate programs at collegesthan mature working learners, who are morelikely to be in certificate programs or employersponsored training. Mature working learners have more workexperience, possess a clearer

Working learners are more concerned about enhancing résumés and gaining work experience than paying for tuition. Young working learners (16-29) make very different decisions compared to mature working learners (30-54) when it comes to majors selected, hours worked, and career choices. Nearly 60 percent of working learners are women.

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