Adult Transitions Longitudinal Study

Center for International Education at the School of Education

University of Massachusetts in Amherst

Researchers and Policymakers

Goals of the Study

The goal of the study is to inform policymakers, program practitioners, students and potential funders about the educational trajectories of Transition Program participants, how the Transition Program influenced those trajectories, and what the outcomes of participating in the Transition Program are for postsecondary academic success, labor market gains, and educational planning for students’ children.

Research Questions

1. What are the outcomes for students who participate in the ABE-to-College Transition Project?
2. What are the factors (individual, program, and college) that influence those outcomes?

Study Methodology

ATLAS followed a sample of 226 adults who enrolled in the ABE-to-College Transitions Project between September 2007 and May 2008, collecting both quantitative and qualitative data about their transition and postsecondary educational experiences and outcomes. The research was be conducted by a team of faculty and graduate students at the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

ATLAS surveys were implemented each year as follows:
WAVE I: 2008
WAVE II: 2009
WAVE III: 2010
WAVE IV: 2011

The study employed a mixed-method design, using both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data focused on individual’s demographic and program participation characteristics, college experience, and labor market outcomes. The qualitative data focused on who students are, differences in how well the Transition Programs prepared them to enroll and succeed in college, why students do and don’t persist in the program and in college, and how variables in students’ lives, college and work experience affected their educational and labor market outcomes, as well as outcomes for them as parents-as-first-teachers and other unanticipated outcomes.

The goal is to identify common trajectories and variables contributing to college success, and to develop student profiles matching these. Along with the quantitative data about outcomes, these profiles can then be used by Transition Program staff to identify adult students who may be more likely to be at risk of dropping out of the transition course, and then to improve the program by adopting strategies that reduce the barriers to success. The analysis will also provide information for policy makers about the benefits of Transition Programs for non-traditional adult students.

ATLAS also employed a three-sample design to collect increasingly in-depth information from sub-samples of participating adult students, in order to maximize the efficiency of both the quantitative and qualitative data collected.

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The following are our working hypotheses regarding participants' motivations, supports and hindrances in trying to attend and succeed in college:


  • Material (desire for better job, house, car)
  • Fulfillment, whether internal (desire for job one likes) or external (desire to be a model for others)
  • Identity (desire to be someone else, to be an educated person)
  • Supports

    • People ("sponsor", family, teachers, employers, friends, transition program staff)
    • Societal/institutional support (AA, drug abuse prevention, govt-supported child care)
    • College characteristics (relevant courses to goal of going to college, ability to study online) and supports (financial aid, support services, counseling)
    • Individual characteristics (existent academic skill set, sense of self-efficacy, positive outlook on life and/or college, realistic goals)
    • Hindrances

      • Life turbulence (lack of livelihood support, health problems, financial problems, turbulent family relationships)
      • College culture seeming difficult/foreign
      • Logistical difficulties/distance from college
      • Individual characteristics (poor academic skill set, lack of self-efficacy, negative outlook on life and/or college, unrealistic goals)
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Articles, Presentations, and Publications

Coming soon.

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ATLAS • Center for International Education • University of Massachusetts • 285 Hills South • Amherst, MA 01003
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