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Focus On Policy

A Model for Adult Education-to-Postsecondary Transition Programs

"It's like stretching before running a marathon. You would never go for a strenuous run without stretching, so why go to college without attending the ABE-to-College transition program?" 
- Ron, X-Cel program 
Roxbury, MA

Reder's research strongly advocates helping adult education students and GED graduates prepare to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Here is a description of a program designed to provide just such a transition for non-traditional adult learners who want to further their education. 

Since January 2000, the New England Literacy Resource Center (NELRC), with funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, has assisted adult education program graduates to prepare for, enter, and succeed in postsecondary education. The NELRC project consists of 25 transition programs in the six New England states, currently serving more than 700 students. These programs are housed in community-based organizations, public schools, community colleges, and prisons. The project is aimed at GED graduates and high school graduates who have been out of school for several years. The program is free and consists of instruction in pre-college reading, writing, and math skills as well as computer and Internet skills. Students also receive educational and career counseling, and learn college survival and study skills. Many students, for example, do not know what is meant by the terms syllabus, prerequisite or bursar. Each program collaborates with one or more local postsecondary institutions to provide mentoring and other assistance that helps non-traditional adult learners succeed.

The transition program begins with an intake and orientation component. The intake process includes an interview that allows staff to assess students' academic skills (using the collaborating college's placement instrument) and other factors that could affect a student's ability to succeed in postsecondary education, such as employment status, child care needs, motivation, goals, career interests, academic experiences, learning styles, and previous academic assessments. This helps program staff determine whether students are ready for the transition course or they need more remediation than the program can provide. 

Orientation activities include an introduction to the collaborating postsecondary institution and an overview of the content of the program and criteria for completing it, student responsibilities, the attendance policy, and counseling opportunities. During the orientation, college students who are former adult education students give advice to new students. 

Transition program classes are held at times and in places that support regular attendance. For example, one transition program takes place at a Head Start site that is easily accessible by public transportation. This program has recruited several parents of Head Start students.

Postsecondary institutions are asked to support the transition program by:

One way in which the program aids student persistence is by matching each student with a peer mentor once they enter college. Mentors serve as role models who attend classes on a regular basis, earn good grades, and work well with both instructors and other students. The mentors also involve new students in college life and talk to them about student activities.

In these ways, the New England ABE-to-College Transition Project aims to both improve access to postsecondary education for more students and ensure their persistence through achieving their goals. For more information about the ABE-to-College Transition program, see their website at This overview of the NELRC project was taken from their report Exemplary Practices for College Transition Programs Facilitated by Adult Basic Education Providers (available at

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL