The Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act has gone through several changes over the three decades. The Act was originally implemented in 1984 with the goal of increasing the quality of technical education in the United States. In 1990, the Act was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act and allowed the federal government to spend as much as $1.6 billion per year on programs at the state and local levels. The Act was further amended in 2006 and became the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. The amendment of the Act in 2006 added criteria for how career and technical education programs across the United States should operate. An important criteria that was included in the 2006 amendment of the Act was that career and technical education programs should be designed to bring together secondary and post-secondary education as a way to allow adults to receive some type of certificate in a vocational or technical area of study. Another important part of the Act, particularly for adult students wanting to go back to school to receive career and technical education was the availability of funds to help them pay for those educational opportunities. As more adults return to school because of the current economic climate in the Untied States, the availability of resources to assist them in pursuing additional education is important.
The question that arises, however, is whether the Perkins Act is having a positive impact on adult career and technical education. If the Perkins Act was designed and has been intended to allow adults to return to school to improve their employment opportunities, then the money that has been designated to assist adult students should have a direct and positive impact on that goal. This is particularly important at the present time as millions of adults are out of work and attempting to find ways to improve their job prospects. The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the Perkins Act on adult education in the United States. It is hypothesized that the Perkins Act has no impact on adult education because the funds authorized to be used under the act are largely directed to schools as opposed to students.
This investigation was conducted as an in-depth as a literature review in which existing literature and information about the Perkins Act was examined in order to determine how funds from the Act are used and whether they directly impact the ability of adults to return to school to pursue career and technical education. In order to gather the literature included in this investigation, two academic databases were searched, Ebsco and Google Scholar. In searching both databases, the search terms "Perkins Act" and "Adult Education:" were used. In using these search terms in both databases, hundreds of search results were returned. In order to reduce the articles to those that were most relevant, only articles from academic sources were used. Furthermore, articles that were no older than five years, meaning from 2007 to the present, were reviewed. In addition, books were also searched using academic databases using the same search criteria that were used for the articles. Once again, only books were reviewed that were five years old or less in order to ensure that the most current and relevant information was included. Finally, it was also desired to include one or two internet sources in the analysis. The potential sources of information from the internet was limited to websites that are considered to be reputable within the adult education and higher education fields. Sites such as Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and non-profit organizations that take on issues related to adult education were searched for stories no older than five years about the Perkins Act.
Once the initial list of academic articles, books, and website articles were determined, they were further reduced to those that specifically addressed some part of how the resources allocated to the Perkins Act are used for adult education. Once the process of examining the articles, books, and websites information that were initially obtained was completed, a total of 10 references were found to meet the criteria and to be relevant for this investigation. The final list of references includes four articles from academic journals, four books, and two website articles.
Use of Funds
In being able to determine if the Carl D. Perkins Act has a direct impact on adult education in the United States, it is necessary to understand how the money that is made available through the Act is actually used each year. It is necessary to know if the majority of the funds are directly toward adult students to help them pay for additional education, or whether the funds are directed toward colleges and universities. Under the Carl D. Perkins Act, most of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are allocated each year for the purpose of career and technical education are directed not toward students, but instead toward colleges and universities. The reason for this is that the Perkins Act was actually written, even as far back as its original form in 1984, to allow colleges, universities, and even high schools, to receive funds so that better career and technical education programs could be implemented. The Act was not intended to make hundreds of millions of dollars available directly to adults or any type of students each year. Instead, the general attitude of the Act has been that it is through colleges, universities, and even high schools, that career and technical education opportunities can be improved that will allow adults to pursue additional educational opportunities.
Even at the present time, the Department of Labor and the Department of Education have continued to attempt to work together to provide guidance to schools, especially community colleges with two-year technical career programs, to develop programs to better serve adults that want to pursue career and technical education. For example, one of the criteria that has been a determining factor with regards to making funds available to colleges and universities under the 2006 version of the Perkins Act has been whether schools put programs in place that bring together secondary and post-secondary educational opportunities. The Perkins Act has been implemented as a way to help high school students immediately move from secondary education to post-secondary education in community college settings that allow them to graduate with a career and technical certificate.
Some funds are made available through the Perkins Act to be given directly to adult students that wish to return to school to pursue career and technical education. The problem, however, is that this is a small portion of the total funds made available through the Perkins Act. Furthermore, it is the states, colleges and universities and the local agencies that have received funding through the Perkins Act that have the ability to decide how much money to make available directly to students to help them pay to return to school. Some colleges and universities may choose to provide large amounts of available funds to help adults pay to pursue the career and technical education programs that are available. Other colleges and universities, however, may seek to limit the funds that are made available directly to students, or may feel that they have to spread funds across many students because of limited resources, which means that each student receives very little financial support compared to the actual cost of pursuing a career or technical course of research study.
Overall, the literature that is available about the way in which resources allocated for the Perkins Act are distributed suggest that few funds are directly provided to adult students to assist them in paying to return to school. Instead, the funds that are made available through the Perkins Act are directly almost entirely to colleges and universities. It is then the responsibility of the schools that receive those funds to determine how to use them within the mandates of the Act.
Allocation of Funds
While information has been provided about how most of the funds from the Carl D. Perkins Act are directed toward colleges and universities, another important issue is the mandates within the Act about how funds are to be used. On the surface, it might seem that the resources made available under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act would be intended for career and technical education. The reality, however, is that there are many different areas in which resources from the Perkins Act are used. One of the ways in which resources from the Perkins Act are used is to connect high schools with community colleges in an attempt to create a seamless transition for students to pursue career and technical education immediately upon graduating from high school. This means that the funds are used as a way to create an infrastructure to allow high school students to move directly to a community college or trade school upon graduation.
In fact, a major factor in the allocation of the resources available under the Perkins Act is actually not allowing adults to return to school, but instead encouraging youth, particularly impoverished youth, to immediately pursue career and technical education right after completing high school (Bedolla, 2010). As part of the restructuring of the Perkins Act under President George W. Bush in 2006, a major emphasis was placed on moving high school students directly into career and technical programs upon graduation. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated specifically for the purpose of allowing community colleges to work with local high schools to create an infrastructure in which students can move from high school to a career or technical education program without the normal obstacles associated with being accepted into a college-type program.
By focusing large amounts of resources under the Perkins Act not to adults, but directly for the purpose of encouraging youth to pursue career and technical education, it is believed that impoverished and unmotivated students who may be at risk of dropping out of high school will not only complete high school, but complete a vocational or technical certificate program (The Annie E. Casey Foundation). The problem for adults, however, is that these are funds that must be used for the purpose of creating connections between high schools and community colleges are not available to adults who may have already completed high school, but who wish to pursue additional career and technical education.
There is a fairly long list of other programs for which funds from the Perkins Act must be used on an annual basis. For example, up to $100 million per year as been authorized in previous years to be made available to educational facilities in economically depressed areas for the purpose of purchasing equipment for career and technical education programs. Educational facilities that are in economically depressed areas of the country have the greatest opportunity of receiving those funds. At the same time, millions of dollars from the Perkins Act are directed toward improving nutrition education, with millions more specifically directed to non-profit organizations to provide vocational educational services to disadvantaged individuals / students. Finally, around $10 million must be used to create partnerships between businesses, schools, and local organizations in providing vocational educational opportunities to students.
The fact that the Perkins Act contains many requirements for how the total funds that are made available must be allocated means that in terms of adult education, very little can be used directly to allow adults to receive financial assistance to return to school for career and technical education. Instead, the amendment of the Act in 2006 resulted in funds being directed in many different areas, including nutrition education and business-educational partnerships. Based on this information, it would indeed seem that the Perkins Act has little impact on adult education in the United States.
Availability of Funds to Adult Students
Colleges establish adult education program. A discussion has already been provided about how most money that is set aside under the Carl D. Perkins Act for adult career and technical education is given directly to colleges and universities. While this means that little money is going directly from the federal government to adult students that need financial assistance to return to school, it also means that there are no standards for how colleges and universities should make financial assistance available to adult students. Few guidelines have established under the Perkins Act to determine the success or failure of colleges and universities in implementing adult career and technical education programs. Instead, as long as colleges and universities are establishing mandated programs, such as connections with high schools to allow youth to transition from secondary to post-secondary education, there are few other requirements for how funds from the Perkins Act must be used.
With regards to assisting adults who want to return to school to pursue career and technical education, colleges and universities are largely free from rules about making funds directly available to them, or how much should be made available. Colleges and universities have the freedom to determine how they wish to set up their career and technical education programs, and perhaps more importantly, the ways in which available funds should be used. If they wish to use most of the funds to purchase equipment and hire faculty, they are free to do so. Furthermore, if colleges and universities would like to focus greater attention on youth who are about to graduate high school as opposed to adults who have been out of school for a while and wish to return to pursue additional education, then that is also well within the limits of the requirements of the Perkins Act.
Colleges are not focused on helping adult students. One of the criticisms that has been leveled against the implementation of the Carl D. Perkins Act is that colleges and universities are not focused on reducing the obstacles for adults to return to school in order to pursue career and technical education. Instead, colleges and universities are still heavily focused on issues such as test scores of applicants and whether they have demonstrated that they have the achieved specific scores on aptitude tests that would make them viable candidates for career and technical programs. If colleges and universities with career and technical education programs are not only focused on test scores for applicants, as well as not providing financial assistance, then the conclusion that must be drawn is that little attention is being focused on positively impact adult students or adult education.
Instead, as colleges and universities receive millions of dollars a y ear for career and technical education, their focus seems to be largely on improving their own infrastructures. They are not concerned with reducing the obstacles that working adults face in attempting to find the financial resources that they need to pursue a career or technical education program. For working adults who may have been negatively impacted by recent economic events, it seems as though they are receiving little assistance from colleges and universities with regards to the admissions process and the requirements to be admitted to adult programs, as well as the financial aspect of being able to pay to be part of those educational programs.
Insufficient Funds to Help Large Numbers of Adult Students
One other problem that needs to be addressed with regards to the impact of the Perkins Act on adult education in the United States is whether the funds that are available to help adults pay for career and technical education are sufficient for large numbers of students. Every year, the actual amount of funding that is received by colleges and universities, as well as non-profit organizations changes based on the budgetary issues facing Congress. It has been noted that the availability of what funds are available to help adult students return to school are not sufficient for the number of adults that want to pursue career and technical education.
As larger numbers of adults face problems finding jobs with the skills that they already possess in the current economic climate, larger numbers of them attempt to return to school to train for new jobs or increase the skills they possess in their current fields. However, the few funds that are made directly available to adult students have remained the same or been reduced as the federal government faces its own budgetary constraints. In this way, funds have decreased as more adults would like to take advantage of career and technical educational opportunities. This has meant that the students that do receive some type of financial assistance under the Perkins Act are receiving less assistance, and some students have actually had a difficult time obtaining any of the available funds at all.
The purpose of this paper has been to examine the impact of the Perkins Act on adult education in the United States. The information that has been reviewed in attempting to examine the impact of the Perkins Act on adult education in the United States focused not only on the allocation and use of financial resources, but also the way in which those resources are used once they are allocated to the various entities that receive them. The information indicated that colleges and universities receive the bulk of funds under the Perkins Act that are intended to improve adult career and technical education. At the same time, a major focus of the use of the resources that are available is not necessarily for adults who have been out of high school for several years to return to school, but to create a connection between high schools and community colleges to create a seamless transition for at-risk and impoverished students to pursue career and technical education. In addition, the colleges and universities that receive financial resources under the Perkins Act have a great deal of freedom in deciding how they will use those funds. This has resulted in the funds being used to improve the career and technical education infrastructures of colleges and universities.
Based on the information that has been examined, the conclusion that is drawn is that the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act has little impact on adult education in the United States. Adults that wish to return to school to pursue career and technical education have little chance of receiving the financial assistance that they need to actually pursue career and technical education programs. Furthermore, those adults who may receive some type of financial assistance are not likely to receive the full financial assistance that is needed to pay for the career and technical education programs.
The issue of making financial resources available to adults is important issue at a time when the country's economy has faced several years of downturn, and is likely to face several more months of a similar situation. The Perkins Act has little impact on whether adults are able to pursue career and technical education. In fact, the information that has been reviewed has demonstrated that the Perkins Act as it now exists is not intended to provide direct support to adult students. Instead, the Perkins Act is intended to provided resources for career and technical education for at-risk and impoverished high school students, as well as for colleges and universities to improve their own career and technical education programs. Adult students have largely been ignored or forgotten within the area of career and technical education under the mandates and rules of the Perkins Act.
With the conclusion that has been drawn in this research that Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act has had little impact on adult education in the United States, it is important to provide recommendations for how the Act could be changed to have a direct impact on adult students wishing to return to school to pursue career and technical education. The first recommendation that is made is that the Act should be amended to remove the large number of areas in which funds must be allocated. At the present time, funds are allocated for educational-business partnerships, as well as nutrition education as part of the Perkins Act. By removing those funding mandates and allowing the funds to be re-allocated for the purpose of providing financial assistance to adults, the Perkins Act could have a more direct impact on adult education.
A second recommendation that is made is that the focus on improving the career and technical education infrastructure of colleges and universities should be phased out of the Perkins Act. The current form of the Perkins Act has been in place since 2006. Since that time, colleges and universities have received millions of dollars each year to strengthen their career and technical education facilities and programs. The emphasis of the Perkins Act should not be transformed to focus on actually making is possible for large numbers of adults to use the improved career and technical education infrastructure that has been created.Specifically, within the next three years, all funding for colleges and universities to improve their career and technical education programs should be completely phased out. Those resources that are currently given directly to colleges and universities should be allocated to a program that distributes financial assistance to adults that wish to return to school. However, rather than allowing colleges and universities to determine which students should receive financial assistance to return to school,, the funds should be distributed to the states for the specific purpose of providing the money directly to adult students.
The benefit of placing the states in charge of providing financial assistance to adults would be that colleges and universities would be removed from being able to choose the best students to receive financial assistance under the Perkins Act. Instead, the states would be responsible for ensuring that as many adults as possible receive the financial assistance that is necessary to return to school to improve their career and technical skills during a time of economic downturn. The states would also be aware of the costs of career and technical education programs within their borders, so that adult students might be directed to those programs that provide the best value for the assistance being received.
Finally, the federal government should implement measures to determine not only how many students receive financial assistance under the Perkins Act, but also how many of those students actually graduate from career and technical education programs. At the present time, few measures of accountability exist. The effort needs to be made to monitor not only how the funds are used as part of the Perkins Act, but also the outcomes that are achieved with those funds. Based on those measures, then changes could be made on an on-going basis to ensure that adult education is indeed improved with the hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent each year.
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