This guide describes the methods used in a study that tracked the progress over five years of a cohort of Washington State community and technical college students, 25 or older, who entered the system with at most a high school diploma. The analysis from this study indicated that students who reach the "tipping point" of at least two semesters of credits and a credential have a substantial earnings advantage over students who earn 10 credits or less.
The study found, however, that few students reach the tipping point, with many adult basic skills students earning no college credits at all. In response to these findings, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges developed the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program, or I-BEST, in which basic skills students enroll in courses jointly taught by basic skills and college-level occupational faculty. Evaluations of the program have found that it substantially increases the rate at which basic skills students reach the tipping point.
This research tool provides guidance to community college agencies that want to conduct their own tipping point studies.