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A study named College Count$ shows students attending schools participate in the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative earn associate degrees or technical certificates at more than double the rate of the general community college population in Arkansas.

CPI was first implemented at Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas in 2006, with several thousand students advancing their job skills and receiving certificates and degrees.

Students who participate in the initiative must live at 250 percent below the poverty level, qualify for public assistance and support a family as a custodial parent.

College Count$, established in April 2015, is a joint research project with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The purpose is to demonstrate the potential for CPI to break the cycle of poverty and provide a return on the investment for participants, their families and their state.

"The goal of Career Pathways Initiative is to remove any barriers to a student's success," Crystal Bell Hunter, CPI Director at CCCUA, said in a provided statement. "Pending available funds, we can assist parents with child care, transportation, academic fees and supplies."

Hunter also said those costs can mean the difference between a student's excelling and dropping out. She added that the strongest case for success is the counseling the school provides to CPI students, serving as encouragement and a point of contact for students unsure how to navigate college.

CPI has worked with more than 30,000 students at 25 Arkansas community colleges and technical centers. According to statistics from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, 52 percent of students who participated in CPI from 2006 to 2013 completed at least one associate degree or certificate. That's compared to a 24 percent rate for general non-CPI community college students across the state from the same academic

The study, conducted by national research firm Metis Associates, is an external evaluation that measures student success, social impact or economic benefits to those receiving federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds.

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