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HHS/OPRE published an RCT of Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA)’s college-based occupational training for low-income students. Quick take: High-quality RCT finds sizable effect on degree/credential receipt, but it leads to no earnings gain over 7 years.


  • VIDA is a non-profit serving parts of Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley. VIDA provides substantial financial & personal supports to help low-income students complete occupational programs at 2 & 4-year colleges that prepare them for well-paying, in-demand jobs in the local economy.

Study Design:

  • The study randomly assigned 958 low-income adults to a treatment group (offered VIDA support) vs control group.


  • 6 years later, the study found a statistically significant 12% point increase in receipt of a credential requiring >8 months of full-time college, & a statistically significant 8% point increase in degree receipt.

  • But the sizable increase in credentials & degrees did not lead to higher earnings/economic well-being (see above graph through 7 years). The authors believe a key reason is that VIDA had little impact on receipt of high value credentials (e.g., Licensed Vocational Nursing - LVN).

  • In other words, the type of credential or degree may matter a lot. An RCT of a related training program - QUEST - found a sizable impact on high value credentials such as LVN, & it led to a large (15-20%) gain in long-term earnings.


  • Based on careful review, this was a high-quality RCT (e.g., with negligible sample attrition, good baseline balance).

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