An analysis of the expectations and actual experiences of students in welfare to work programs: a community college case study

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Follins, Craig Thomas

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The community college has historically been uniquely situated to serve the poor, the underserved, the locked-out, and those individuals who otherwise would not attend post-secondary education. In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. This new welfare reform legislation (PRWORA) imposed time limits on the receipt of welfare benefits for the first time in our nation’s history. It created a very interesting situation for community colleges in America. Community colleges would not only be the designated education and training providers for welfare recipients, they would have to provide these services in a “work first” environment. This study will examine the experiences of selected students who came to the Houston Community College System via the welfare to work to self sufficiency route. This study will discuss the 1996 Welfare Reform legislation, Houston Community College System’s history and involvement in welfare programs, explore the attributes and characteristics of what has worked and what has not, and finally, discuss implications for future such programs.