Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement

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 help address educational disparities. 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

  • Creating a pathway to a higher-paying job: The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) is a career pathways program that aims to help low-income adults earn an associate’s degree or other industry-recognized credential that will lead to a job offering a living wage. VIDA is a nonprofit, community-based organization formed by business and faith-based leaders in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

  • Addressing local workforce needs: VIDA regularly consults with local economic development corporations to identify in-demand jobs in the region. This research informs the career pathways it offers, which span the health, manufacturing, skilled trades, technology, and education/social services fields.

  • Tailored to low-income adults: The program targets low-income adults, who are interested in or already enrolled in a postsecondary program. As a condition of participation, individuals must maintain full-time enrollment in a certificate or associate's degree program or be in the final two years of a bachelor’s degree program.

  • Providing services to support educational and career success: Participants receive a set of educational, professional, and financial supports. These include weekly individual and group sessions with VIDA counselors, which help participants build skills needed to succeed in school and in the labor market; a college preparation course, which provides participants with 16 weeks of skill-building in math, reading, and writing; and financial support for tuition, books, and other educational expenses.

Cost per Participant
Approximately $13,750 per participant over an average of two and a half years

A single study with a rigorous design provides some evidence for VIDA as a strategy for improving college access and readiness. 

  • A 2022 randomized controlled trial found that, over a six year period, VIDA participants were 12 percentage points more likely to complete a postsecondary credential requiring at least eight months of full-time enrollment than were individuals in the control group. However, there was no impact on earnings.

Note: This content is under review.

  • Target non-enrolled individuals: Individuals who were not enrolled in a postsecondary program prior to participating in VIDA saw greater growth in postsecondary completion rates than individuals who were already enrolled in a degree or credential program. This suggests that employment pathway programs may have a larger impact on postsecondary completion when they primarily support individuals who are not already enrolled in a postsecondary program.

  • Maintain small caseloads: Participants have mandatory weekly group or individual case management sessions to help students learn key skills and persist through barriers to educational success. To make this individualized approach possible, VIDA counselors typically have a caseload of 50-55 students - far below the average for community colleges.

  • Provide financial support to address barriers: Adult learners may face a range of non-academic challenges to persisting in higher education, such as difficulty affording transportation or childcare. VIDA reduces these barriers by providing financial support that can be used for a broad range of expenses.

  • Use data to demonstrate effectiveness: VIDA is part of Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education, a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This partnership funds the ongoing independent evaluation of VIDA, which helps it demonstrate a return on investment for private and local, state, and federal government funders.