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Finances, Family, Materials, and Time Career Pathways Participants' Perceived Challenges

Kristin S. Seefeldt, Whitney Engstrom, Karen Gardiner


October 25, 2016

Low-income, low-skilled adults are likely to face challenges in pursuing post-secondary education. These challenges have been documented in other studies and include financial concerns, lack of academic preparation, and multiple demands on their time, such as parenting and working.

Career pathways programs seek to address these challenges by offering a variety of supports, both academic and non-academic. However, participants still face barriers to program completion. In-depth interviews with participants in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) evaluation show that:

  • Financial challenges range from worries about day-to-day expenses, to concerns about financing future education and training, to uncertainty about how to manage student loans from previous education and training;
  • Some respondents are dealing with difficult family issues, such as divorce, domestic violence, and caring for older family members. In addition, many parents feel guilty about the amount of time they have to spend away from children while participating;
  • Challenges related to course work include learning new and difficult material, feeling ill-prepared by their high school education, and being out of school for long periods of time;
  • “Lack of time” was a commonly cited challenge, described as fitting training into an already busy schedule, finding time to study, or having difficulty managing multiple assignments; and
  • Although the career pathways programs in PACE offer a range of supports, participants may need more information about available services or programs may need to adapt or expand their offerings.

Read the other two interviews: