Why We Need Adult High Schools: 3 Takeaways from the Excel Center National Conference


Goodwill Industries of Central and Southern Indiana is an Ascend Network Partner and an innovator in two-generation approaches. Learn more about the 2Gen partnership, led by Ascend Fellow Betsy Delgado, between Goodwill, its Excel Center, and Nurse-Family Partnership. The Excel Center National Conference is a convening of Goodwill and Excel Center leadership to exchange lessons and accelerate the impact of their adult high school model. 

  1. Graduates significantly increase their incomes and many continue on to higher education. There are 32 million adults without high school degrees in the United States. A high school degree is a critical step on the path to educational success and economic security. Students who graduate from Excel Centers, which provide tuition-free adult high school education and child care, increase their annual incomes by an average of $12,000. Seventy percent are employed within six months of graduation, and almost 40 percent go on to higher education with a 76 percent two-year persistence rate. External researchers estimate that Indiana’s Excel Centers save the state $1.89 million annually from the decrease in public assistance needs of their graduates. Dollar for dollar, this is a good use of public resources to ensure families can prosper. 
  2. Classroom time and support matter for long-term success. Unlike just getting a GED, time spent in a classroom with supportive staff pays off. Students learn to show up on time and to persevere in achieving their goals. Coaches support students at every step, providing the encouragement and troubleshooting they may need to push forward when financial struggles or a breakdown in transportation or housing threaten their ability to continue. Excel Center teachers are also extremely accessible, so students know they have a support system when they need it. In conversations with students at the Excel Center, it was clear that the coaches and teachers make the difference. As Betsy Delgado, national superintendent of the Excel Centers said, “We believe in our students until they believe in themselves.” 
  3. They have the flexibility to meet student and job market needs quickly. Excel Centers have the flexibility to quickly meet evolving student and job market needs. While the Centers maintain a strong adherence to the model, so students and funders know they can count on quality from site to site, they are flexible where it enables them to serve students better. At Central and Southern Indiana’s Shadeland school, the accreditation and higher education specialist will look into any partnership that meets student needs and helps them get certifications, college credits, and jobs, whether that means taking students to a training site for welding or bringing an HVAC training to them. In Missouri, staff collaborated with state officials to structure the use TANF and SNAP Education and Training resources to support students, not simply comply with requirements. And the South Bend Excel Center in northern Indiana is building out its child care center to meet additional early childhood development milestones, providing a model other Centers are eager to adopt.

Excel Centers are operated by Goodwill Industries in six states (Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, DC). More Centers are scheduled to open in 2019 and beyond.