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The Challenges of Leveraging Online Education for Economically Vulnerable Mid-Career Americans

This chapter lays out some of the central questions policymakers should ask when considering plans to leverage online education for economically vulnerable mid-career Americans, as well as the state of the evidence surrounding those questions. In short, existing research provides little clear evidence of successful models of online education for academically weaker students, suggesting that policymakers should proceed with caution.

Introduction: The Need to Expand Economic Opportunity

The pursuit of economic opportunity for all Americans is as important to the health of the country’s economy as it is to the strength of its democracy. The promise that hard work and determination will yield economic success is a central American ideal, but it has been called into question as secular economic forces and institutional changes have reshaped the American economy and had an uneven impact on Americans’ ability to prosper.