Adult Foundational Education and Affordable Housing

Adult Foundational Education and Affordable Housing

April 26, 2024

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This document describes the importance of adult foundational education and how it can be integrated into affordable housing settings to address the needs of millions of adults in the United States. The document also includes five appended profiles of a range of examples of such programs. The adults in programs such as these face challenges such as low literacy, limited English proficiency, and lack of high school credentials, which hinder their economic security and ability to navigate essential systems like housing and healthcare. 

Adult Foundational Education (AFE) is a term that describes the field that includes basic literacy, adult basic and secondary level skills, preparation for post-secondary education and English for speakers of other languages. It distinguishes these from credit-bearing post-secondary education. Despite the existence of effective curricula, professional development and technologies for adult foundational education, funding for AFE implementation remains inadequate, with at best 10% of adults in need receiving services annually. The document highlights the potential for AFE programs within affordable housing contexts to address residents' diverse needs such as employment, financial stability, and health literacy. 

The Open Door Collective (ODC) is a national program of Literacy Minnesota; an affordable housing and AFE Research project within the ODC has been investigating examples of AFE offered to affordable housing residents. Through web searches and interviews, the project has so far identified 11 programs across five states that provide AFE directly or through partnerships with AFE programs. These programs vary in their approaches, from offering workshops and coaching on financial literacy to providing on-site classes and mobile learning apps. Notable features of these programs include their focus on meeting residents' broader needs beyond education, such as financial literacy and workforce development. 

While some programs rely on private and local public funding, very few benefit from federal funding sources such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title II. The document suggests that tapping into affordable housing developments as a context for AFE could significantly expand access to education for adults in need of these services. To realize this potential, the authors recommend targeted investments in funding and technical support for affordable housing providers to develop AFE programs or partnerships. They emphasize the importance of resident-centric approaches and the involvement of residents in program design to ensure relevance and effectiveness in meeting the residents’ needs. The authors argue that expanding federal, state, and local funding for AFE in affordable housing contexts could benefit thousands or millions of adults and their families while also fostering useful service partnerships between AFE providers and affordable housing providers.