ProLiteracy Survey Shows Adult Ed Funding Declines, While Student Waiting Lists Grow
Posted on March 18, 2016

About 36 million American adults function at low literacy levels and need the help of adult education programs that focus on their unique needs. Each year, ProLiteracy surveys its 1,000 member programs across the country. The data collected is used to measure the impact that program services have on adult literacy statistics, and to determine trends in the field. 

The latest survey shows an ongoing decline in the percentage of adult literacy programs that receive federal and/or state funding. Thirty-eight percent of programs reported receiving any kind of government funding in 2015, down 10 percentage points just in the last six years. While government funding has decreased, demand for services is up. ProLiteracy members served 244,106 students during the 2014/2015 fiscal year but 68 percent of programs reported waiting lists that averaged three months.

“Our members are community-based organizations that are doing more with less. Sixty-nine percent of our programs operate with an annual budget of $150,000 or less,” said Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “Despite declines in funding, demand for adult education services has increased substantially. Federal, state, and local government officials have to realize that increased funding for adult education has a positive return on investment for a multitude of social issues, including job creation, economic development, crime rates, and K-12 test scores.”

The study identifies seven key measurements of the programs’ impact and improvement of adult learners over the last year, including learning gains, improved job-related skills, and increased involvement in children’s educational activities.

“This research study is important to our organizational mission, and that of our members,” Morgan said. “It underscores the valuable contribution that community-based literacy organizations make, and the critical need for additional funding. These programs offer a variety of literacy services including adult basic education, high school equivalency, and English language learning programs.”

The ProLiteracy Annual Statistical Report can be viewed at