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Report: Adult Learning Programs Needed in U.S. South as Bridge to Post-K-12 Education

The Southern Region Educational Board (SREB) is urging that Southern states strengthen their adult learning programs to help boost the educational opportunities for the working adult population. In their report,  A Smart Move in Tough Times: How SREB States Can Strengthen Adult Learning and the Work Force, released this week, the SREB reports that more than 10 million adults in the South lack either a high school diploma or GED credential and could benefit from adult learning programs that can lead to postsecondary training and improved employment.

With the current recession still fueling high unemployment rates, layoffs and factory closings, there’s a pressing need for high-quality adult learning programs in the 16-state SREB region, according to officials. The report notes that the region had fewer working adults enrolled in these programs in 2008 than in 2005.

“Quite simply, the economic well-being of our region is at stake if we allow the growing group of less-educated, working-age adults to expand further,” SREB president Dave Spence said in a statement. “Where better-trained workers live, good jobs will follow.”

The SREB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with 16 member states to improve public pre-K-12 and higher education. Founded in 1948 by the region’s governors and legislators, SREB was the first U.S. interstate compact for education. The regional compact works largely with state leaders, school districts, and educators to improve teaching, learning and student achievement at every level of education.

Among SREB states, the report revealed that 11 of 16 states saw total adult learning program enrollment decrease between 2005 and 2008. However, researchers found that enrollment increased in each of the three major adult education sectors in Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina. The three sectors are Adult Basic Education (ABE), Adult Secondary Education (ASE) and English as a Second Language (ESL).

“Funding is a part of the picture, and part of that funding has to do with investment,” said Alan Richard, director of SREB communications. “By encouraging states to make larger investments, SREB officials believe (the effort) will show a positive change in adults by helping them to gain opportunities they never had because of little to no education.”

“As we continue to encourage adult learning in the SREB states, our next approach will be to encourage adults to complete their degrees they never finished when they were in college,” Richard said.

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