Return on Investment of Virginia’s Postsecondary Education Rehabilitation Transition Program

Author: Dr. Kirsten Rowe, Grants and Systems Development Specialist, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services
August 5, 2016

Other bloggers on this site highlight the enormous potential of VLDS to assess the impact and effectiveness of state education, workforce and human services programs. At the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), we use multi-agency longitudinal data to estimate the impact and return on investment (ROI) of our agency’s vocational rehabilitation (VR) program. Our experience prompted the realization that joining VLDS could greatly enhance our ability to use its data to examine the long-term outcomes of our programs for the Virginians we serve.

The VR program, which is funded by a combination of federal and state investments, helps individuals with disabilities find and keep employment. VR services include vocational assessment and counseling, job training and placement, educational services, assistive technology and supported employment. The annual performance data we provide the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration demonstrate our good track record in helping people get jobs. However, until recently, our assessment of the program’s long-term effectiveness relied on the experiences of VR professionals in the field, anecdotal information and customer satisfaction data.

With funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, and with de-identified individual-level data such as information now available through the VLDS, we sought to evaluate the ROI of our VR services. Researchers at the University of Richmond and the University of Virginia developed and tested a rigorous ROI model to estimate the long-term impacts of VR services in Virginia.

The team found that, overall, 80 percent of Virginians with disabilities who in 2000 applied for VR services earned more in the following decade than they would have earned without participating in our VR program. For every $1,000 in VR expenditures, the average (median) participant earned $7,100 more in the next 10 years than they would have earned without VR. Significantly, the top 10 percent of VR participants who applied in 2000 earned at least $45,100 more in the next 10 years.

Using the same meticulous approach to estimating ROI, the researchers examined the long-term impact of the Postsecondary Education Rehabilitation Transition (PERT) program. This school-to-work transition initiative for high school students with disabilities is supported by DARS and the Virginia Department of Education and administered through the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville.

As shown below, this research revealed that, with an average per-student investment of $3,500, PERT participation increased students’ chances of finding and keeping a job by 31 percent; when combined with at least one more year of education, increased their likelihood of getting and keeping a job by 96 percent; and doubled, on average, students’ earnings in the long run (about $21,000 in increased earnings over five years) among those who became employed, compared with similar students who did not participate in PERT.

These impressive VR program and PERT results didn’t happen overnight. The average VR participant receives services for about two years before their case is closed because they are successfully employed, and the average PERT student remains in school for at least three more years before entering the workforce.

Taking the long view in evaluating outcomes through the use of longitudinal data enables DARS to tell a more complete story of the impact of VR services. We look forward to building on these newly discovered and meaningful long-term results of our program.

Return on Investment of Virginia’s Postsecondary Education Rehabilitation Transition Program

 Arrow, curved to the right, describing the flow of client outcomes.

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