Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) Program
The Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) program is operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW). The KEYS Program assists low-income individuals in earning a career-specific, credit-bearing certificate or an associate's degree to enable them to secure jobs that provide family-sustaining wages with benefits and greater opportunities for advancement.
This program is designed to provide an opportunity and the corresponding support for Pennsylvania's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to pursue a degree or credit or noncredit-bearing certificate at a Community College in Pennsylvania. Working in partnership with Pennsylvania's Commission for Community Colleges, KEYS was developed in response to growing research that demonstrates that TANF participants, who earn a certificate or degree, are better able to get jobs with family-sustaining wages, benefits, and opportunities for advancement.
Services offered include academic services, financial services (e.g., tax assistance, financial literacy), referrals to supportive services, coaching/counseling/mentoring, financial/material supports (eg. scholarships, emergency funds, computers).
A limited number of individuals enrolled in the SNAP program (20 percent of KEYS slots) and all TANF participants planning or currently attending one of Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges are eligible to participate in the KEYS program. Participants are provided with a KEYS student facilitator who assists with course scheduling and career guidance. Special allowances for supportive services are also available to support students' participation in KEYS. DPW's Special Allowances for Supportive Services can pay student registration fees for education and training programs and provide students with transportation and childcare assistance, books, and clothing.
KEYS participants have 30 months to complete their studies, though a range of shorter-term options, including one-year certificate programs, is also available. DPW has instituted a system for documenting and verifying KEYS students' work participation hours. Each student is provided with a schedule that includes classes, independent and supervised study hours, and all other countable activities. KEYS facilitators document and verify KEYS students' activities. This system of verification has increased the number of reported work participation hours.
The KEYS program reports that participants have shared that facilitators are the most crucial aspect of the program. Facilitators help in identifying careers with available jobs and assist in designing a course schedule that prepares students for these positions. Facilitators assist with financial aid applications, transportation and childcare arrangements, and maintain an open line of communication with DPW public assistance staff to ensure KEYS students are meeting requirements and receiving needed support services.