HTM Blog

Connecting learning and community.

The Holyoke Tutor/Mentor program connects volunteers to adult education classes in Holyoke.



We all know that the true benefits of education are incalculable. 

As a teacher, having a student tell me at the end of the year "I learned I'm smarter than I thought I was" is worth more than any score on any standardized test, or any outcome measure the Dept. of Education can invent.

And, yet. 

Not everyone has had that heart-melting experience. And so, we calculate other impacts, easier to quantify and translate than "I learned I'm smarter than I thought I was" 

Lately, I've been looking at research on the income returns of adult education.

Here's the original study.

But to recap: Researchers conducted a 10 year longitudinal study of 900+ people who had dropped out of school. They combined repeated interviews with school and employment records, and compared people who had participated in adult education programs to similar people who had not. 

They found that students who participated in adult basic education classes for 100 or more hours had annual incomes approximately $10,000 higher than those who did not participate. 


$10,000 in annual income would make a difference in my life.

It would make a huge difference for a family starting out around the poverty level, as most of our students are.

And so, I wondered about our students.

Their study ran 1998-2007. We have data back to 1999. So, I spent some time with the state database we used for reporting and my calculator and some best-reasonable-assumptions about the data.

Since 1999, we've had about 2000 students go through the adult basic education (GED/HiSET) classes the study examined. (ESOL folks, I'm looking for your data next) Over 20 years, these students averaged 113 hours of participation each year.

Let's say half of them were at or above the average*. That's something like 375 students completing 100 hours in our programs during the study (FY99-FY08). If they increased their incomes by $10,000 each, that's an annual gain of $3.75 million dollars of income by 2007.

And if they maintained that income to today, eleven years later, that's a little over $41 million dollars of extra income our former students have earned and spent in the local economy.

Since 2007, we've maybe had another 650 or so adult learners get their 100 hours. If the trend continues, that's $6.5 million in extra income each year.

All together, our 1000 former students could be making something like an additional $10 million each year.

Woah, again.

That's a lot of spending at local businesses, and a lot of giving kids and families a more stable life. That's a lot of the other outcomes -- health, and schooling, and civic contributions -- that are correlated with income.


Smarter than I thought I was' is priceless.

But, $10 million a year is pretty good too.

*This is may well be a gross undercount, since many students participate over multiple years. But until I find a team of research assistant interns to go through 20 years of attendance records with me and count everyone, it seems like a reasonable  estimate.


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Saturday, 25 June 2022

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