Instituto staff implemented the multi-step program and associated supports largely as planned. The lower bridge courses were offered at Instituto using Carreras instructors and specially-designed curricula that sought to infuse basic skills education with healthcare content. Case managers, academic advisors, and employment specialists worked with students to arrange support services, address personal issues that could interfere with program completion, and provide academic guidance and tutoring. The upper bridge courses were provided at City College of Chicago campuses using their standard curricula, but Carreras participants enrolled in these courses could still access its academic advising and employment assistance.
The basic skills courses at Instituto were provided at no cost to participants, whereas Carreras staff assisted its participants in the college-level courses in accessing tuition support. The program also emphasized employment assistance, with staff dedicated to both improving participants’ job search skills and finding appropriate employment opportunities for participants completing Carreras courses.
The dual academic and employment advising roles reflect the key feature of the Carreras program, namely that it is designed to facilitate entry to training and exit to employment at multiple steps along its career pathway. Participants can opt to progress directly to the next bridge on the pathway or to seek employment, potentially returning to complete additional training at a later time. Once in Carreras, participants can re-enroll in the program even after a significant period of time.
Almost all study participants were Latino (99.6 percent). About 90 percent had at least a high school diploma, and about 40 percent had some college. The majority, however, were nontraditional students: More than 55 percent were age 25 or older when they entered the study, although 18 percent were age 20 or younger. Most participants were of low income. Approximately three-quarters reported annual household incomes of less than $30,000. Slightly more than one-third reported incomes of less than $15,000. The average yearly salary was $21,051. Many participants (42 percent) reported receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits in the past year. More than one-third (37 percent) reported that they experienced financial hardship in the past year.
Students who were randomly assigned to the Patient Care Pathway program enrolled in one or more one-semester academies. The academies provided students with academic preparation and an accelerated path through remediation in occupational courses--such as Medical Terminology and Chemistry. The academies also supported students through basic skills courses, and a variety of adult learning instructional approaches such as contextualization. The program's essential support activity was one-on-one advising. Students could also access an emergency fund for small, short-term financial needs. Instructional supports, such as test workshops and group tutoring, were added later on during the study in response to student needs.
Control group members had access to education and other services in the community that was not exclusive to the Patient Care Pathway of interest. For example, control group members could access non–Patient Care Pathway courses, tutoring, disability services, general advising, counseling, and other services available at Madison College, if they were eligible. Control group members could also enroll in the college’s healthcare diploma and degree programs, but would likely follow different paths to qualify for them (the Patient Care Pathway academies versus traditional developmental education).
Support for implementation