NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 21, 2007

Over the last four decades, even as failed experiments and partisan disputes took the luster off the war on poverty, the Job Corps -- the government's main effort to give poorly educated youths a second chance at a diploma and a trade -- was widely seen as one of the few success stories, says Erik Eckholm in the New York Times.

But more recently, the data has not been as reassuring:

  • A study published in 2001 that surveyed Job Corps graduates and a control group, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research for the Labor Department, found that the program led to significant increases in self-reported earnings over four years and to lower arrest rates.
  • But a second analysis, released by the Labor Department in 2006, was dismaying: only the older participants, those in their 20s when they entered the centers, showed any gains in earnings, and they were slight.

Further, nationally, 30 percent of entrants leave within the first two months, either because they break the rules or they do not like the regimented life. Among the rest, 60 percent leave with only a G.E.D., a regular high school diploma, certification in a trade or a combination of these.

But Dr. Esther R. Johnson, who took over the corps last March, is planning to change the recent trends.  Among her planned reforms:

  • Lengthening the average stay for many graduates beyond the current 11.4 months, improving their reading, math and vocational skills.
  • Trading courses to connect more closely with college programs and emerging industries, and doubling the number of graduates, now just 10 percent, who go on to higher education.
  • All this can be done, according to Johnson, within a budget flat-lined at $1.5 billion in recent years, mainly by increasing the rigor of courses while cutting other costs.

Source: Erik Eckholm, "Job Corps Plans Makeover for a Changed Economy," New York Times, February 20, 2007.

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