Adult high school breaks cycle of poverty

Guest Opinion//August 11, 2021

Adult high school breaks cycle of poverty

Guest Opinion//August 11, 2021

The words Adult Education written on a chalkboard

I’m a Republican and former member of the Indiana state Senate – a position I held for 25 years until stepping down in 2017. I served 10 years as the Tax and Fiscal Policy chair, and 10 years as the Appropriations chair. 

Indiana spends more than 50% of its budget each year on K-12 education and, additionally, more than 12% on higher education. One of the most difficult problems to find solutions for was the high school dropout, regardless of their age. With Goodwill’s leadership in executing its Excel Center schools, we achieved a remarkable success on this issue. 

As in Arizona, my home state of Indiana had long suffered from a lack of educational attainment. Simply put, far too many Hoosiers never finished high school. This held them back – limiting their job opportunities and resulting in more intensive reliance on welfare as they’re less able to support themselves and their families. 

It’s a problem that costs us all but, fortunately, there is a fiscally responsible solution. 

In 2010, our state partnered with Goodwill to implement a first-of-its-kind high school designed to serve adult learners who never earned a diploma. Known as The Excel Centers, these schools are traditional, tuition-free public high schools in almost every way except one  they’re tailored to educate and meet the unique needs of adults, meaning they include services ranging from child care to workforce training and more. Goodwill’s diligence and expertise in producing and replicating the program around the state has produced an avenue to success in this perplexing problem. Their performance was so high in this program that we have basically made them the exclusive provider of the service. 

Graduates learn the skills and earn the credentials they need for a good job. And the state sees reduced demand for social services. I call that a win-win! 

Luke Kenley
Luke Kenley

Since the opening of the first Excel Center in Indianapolis, as well as the one right in my hometown of Noblesville – we’ve seen this proven program expand across Indiana and into other states. Today, there are 19 Excel Centers operating in Indiana, and the program has been similarly adopted in the District of Columbia, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee. 

The results speak for themselves: 

  • Since 2010,more than6,000 Hoosiers have earned their diploma via The Excel Center. 
  • 97% of students graduate from The Excel Center with workforce credentials, certifications or college credits.
  • 70% of graduates find employment and experience,a 50% increase in job earnings within the first six months following graduation.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 graduates go on to pursue postsecondary or higher education.

 There’s no reason why Arizona can’t experience similar success with The Excel Center model. Like Indiana, there are more than 720,000 Arizona adults who deserve the same chance to complete their high school education. A modest investment in The Excel Center can empower these individuals to better their own lives, while helping to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that holds too many families and communities back. 

Luke Kenley is a Republican and former member of the Indiana state Senate.