Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can provide assistance to unemployed workers. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Helping adults earn a high school diploma: The Excel Center is a free, public charter high school for adults. Operated by Goodwill Education Initiatives, the Excel Center offers an accelerated adult learning program that leads to a full high school diploma.

  • Offering an accelerated pathway to career and college readiness: The Excel Center’s accelerated adult learning program allows students to complete their full high school diploma in less than 2.5 years. Classes are offered year-round as part of five, eight-week terms. Each class is led by a licensed teacher. In addition to core academic classes, students may also pursue various industry-recognized credentials and take dual-enrollment courses with a local community college.

  • Addressing students’ non-academic needs: All students are matched with a “life coach,” who provides guidance in navigating barriers to achieving their educational goals. Students also have access to on-site support services, such as child care and transportation assistance. Through Goodwill’s broader suite of programs, Excel Center students can also access more specialized services, including job search assistance, services for first-time mothers, and re-entry programming.

  • Preparing students for success after graduation: The Excel Center’s college and career readiness specialists provide students with additional support as they prepare to graduate from the program. These services include resume writing, soft skills training, guidance on college admissions and financial aid, among other supports.

Cost per Participant
$8,460 per participant

A single study with a rigorous design provides some evidence for the Excel Center as a strategy for improving educational and labor market outcomes for adults without a high school degree.

  • A 2021 quasi-experimental study found that Excel Center graduates were 11 percentage points more likely to be employed and 33 percentage points more likely to to enroll in a post-secondary education program when compared to individuals who applied to the Excel Center but did not matriculate or who did not complete their degree at the Excel Center. Over a five year follow-up period, graduates earned an average of 39 percent more than before starting the Excel Center program.

Note: This content is under review.

  • Allow students to earn a high school diploma: Unlike many adult learning programs, the Excel Center allows students to earn a high school diploma - not an alternative credential, like a GED. This can better prepare students for postsecondary education and career opportunities, as their credential is identical to students who graduated from a traditional high school. Local leaders interested in replicating the Excel Center model should confirm whether their state allows individuals over the age of 21 to earn a high school diploma. While some states are removing this restriction, it remains in effect across much of the country.

  • Provide a wide range of support services: At the Excel Center, each student works with a “life coach,” who helps them navigate barriers to meeting their educational goals. Life coaches can connect students to a range of support services, including child care and transportation assistance. These services are vital to student success, as they ensure that students can more easily navigate common barriers to program completion.

  • Offer flexible class schedules: The Excel Center’s academic program is flexible, allowing students to take courses either part- or full-time. Students also have the option of selecting morning, afternoon, and, in some cases, evening classes to better fit their schedule. This flexibility increases the number of adults who can enroll at the Excel Center, and it increases the likelihood that current students will be able to complete the program, even as their life circumstances change.

  • Address the needs of a wide-range of learners: The Excel Center provides specialized support for English language learners and special education students. A designated English language coordinator assists students with accessing in-class accommodations, English remediation classes, and other supports. Similarly, each Excel Center has a special education teacher, who leads the development of an individualized education plan for students who need special education services. When implementing similar programs, academic supports like these ensure a broader range of adult learners can earn their high school diploma.