Adult Basic Education Certificate

College of Individualized Studies
Graduate certificate

About this program

Final approval by Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for this program is pending. 

This 14-credit, completely online Adult Basic Education Certificate is designed to prepare teachers, trainers, administrators, and counselors in the broad political, social, economic and theoretical aspects of improving adult basic skills in a global environment.

Using a culturally responsive and representative curriculum, this certificate is intended to prepare teachers and trainers in a variety of public and private settings where basic skills improvement is a necessity, but where licensure is not always required.

The four courses in this certificate program include a focus on trauma-informed teaching, take participants through various methods and strategies of teaching adult foundational skills and literacy, as well as formal and informal assessment methods, and allow students to build on their interests through targeted fieldwork.

Certificate Program Highlights

  • Offer a deep understanding of the characteristics – within the social and demographic context – that motivate adults to engage in lifelong learning opportunities.
  • Offer a deep understanding of various adult learning and development theories.
  • Offer a deep understanding of intermediate and advanced methods and strategies of teaching adult foundational literacy and of formally and informally assessing the foundational literacy skills of adult learners.
  • Offer a deep understanding of various literacy programs, funding, program planning and needs assessments.
  • Enables learners to connect theory with practice and develop real-world teaching experience in adult basic education settings or training.

Student outcomes

Learners who complete the Adult Basic Education Certificate will be able to:

  • Design and teach various foundational literacy courses in adult basic education settings, in the workplace, and community.
  • Evaluate various requirements of foundational literacy in adult basic education settings, in the workplace, community, and family.
  • Assess foundational literacy skills of adult learners using various formal and informal methods.
  • Critically evaluate various strategies for teaching English as a foreign language.
  • Critically evaluate various online, adult-focused, teaching and training programs.
  • Appreciate and advocate for cultural and gender integration into English communication, comprehension, and oral communication skills for the workplace.

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Enrolling in this program

Application instructions

Minimum Admission Requirements

Applicants must demonstrate evidence of readiness for graduate study including an earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution (or foreign credential equivalency) with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale).

Applicants with competence-based transcripts and no calculated GPA will be considered.

The Adult Basic Education Certificate is designed to meet the needs of a diverse student population. We therefore strongly encourage a diversity of candidates to apply to this program in order to reflect the learners engaged in the various adult basic education setting throughout our communities.

Admission is not guaranteed.

Application Deadlines

April 15 – Fall semester
Nov. 15 – Spring semester
March 30 – Summer semester

Applications received by the deadline will be reviewed and a decision will be provided to each applicant within a month after the deadline. Incomplete applications will roll forward to the next semester for a maximum of three semesters, after which you must re-apply if your file is still incomplete.

Although admission is based on meeting a number of qualifying criteria, detailed below, there are only a limited number of seats available every semester. If you meet the criteria but are not admitted due to limited space, you may be granted deferred admission.

Since this certificate takes place online, international students may complete the courses without needing to be in the US. However, since one of the required courses is a fieldwork, international students will need to enter into an agreement with the program director, to identify a suitable substitute fieldwork. Further, international students must meet the admission criteria and present evidence of language proficiency. We accept TOEFL scores of at least 550 (PBT) or 213 (CBT) or 80 (IBT) and IELTS scores of at least 6.0. Applications from international students studying on an F-1 student visa will not be accepted, as this is not a degree-granting program.

Application Requirements

A complete application file consists of two parts. Begin the application process by first applying online using the online application portal. All application materials become the property of Metropolitan State University and are not returned. All application materials must be received by the Graduate Studies Office by the application deadline.

Your application will be considered only if your application is complete. Note that if you are completing a four-year program you may apply to this graduate certificate if you are in your final year; however, you cannot begin this graduate certificate program until you have finished your bachelor's degree.

Part One

  • Complete the Online Graduate Programs Application, using your Minnesota State StarID. If you don’t have a Minnesota State StarID you will create on at the beginning of the application.
    • If you don't have or choose not to provide your Social Security number (SSN), please follow the No SSN instruction to activate your StarID. If you encounter difficulty with the online application, please email  
  • Non-refundable application fee, paid online
    • The current fee of $20 is waived for graduates of Metropolitan State, certified veterans and active military.
  • Official transcripts
    • Must show a bachelor degree or equivalent earned from a regionally accredited institution with grade-point average or narrative description describing courses completed.
    • Transcripts from ALL schools attended after high school and from any graduate or professional programs are required.
    • All transcripts from non-US schools must be evaluated (course-by-course) by either ECE (preferred) or WES.
    • Electronic transcripts should be sent to
    • Paper transcripts should be sent directly from the sending institution (preferred) to:

Metropolitan State University
Attn: Graduate Admissions
700 East Seventh Street
Saint Paul MN 55106

Part Two

After you have submitted your online application, log in to the Applicant Portal using your Star ID and password to upload application materials, and check on the status of your application. The Applicant Portal will indicate any missing application items.

  • One professional reference letter; upload via the Applicant Portal using your StarID.
    • The most effective letters may be from professors familiar with your work in upper- division courses, and able to comment on your preparation for advanced study. A recommendation letter from a close supervisor is also acceptable.
      • Personal references will not be considered.
      • Applicants should remind their references of the application deadline when speaking with them.
  • A 2-page letter of interest, to be uploaded via the Applicant Portal using your StarID.
    • Your letter of interest will serve as both a goals statement and a writing assessment. Submit your letter of interest, using 12-point font, double-spaced, clearly written, well-organized, with correct grammar, accurate spelling and punctuation, good sentence structure, and clear sub-headings. Make sure that you carefully address each of the following:
      • Pledge of Authorship: Please begin your admissions essay with the following statement: (Your essay will not be accepted if this is not included.) I, (complete name), verify that this admissions essay is my own work, and I am fully aware that discovery otherwise will invalidate my entire application.
      • Why you are interested in the Adult Basic Education Certificate. 
      • How do you feel your previous experiences, academic or otherwise, have prepared you for this program?
      • If you have taught in adult basic education settings, in the workplace, community, please make sure to include that.
      • What skills and knowledge do you expect to gain through this program?


Questions about Applying to the Graduate Certificate?

Questions about the online application, fee, transcripts/transcript evaluations, online references and document upload feature can be sent to (preferred) or call 612-659-7150.

For questions about Part Two requirements or the program in general, please contact Prof. Daniel Woldeab, Director of the Certificate Program, at (preferred) or call 612-793-1781.

262 St. John’s Hall
700 East Seventh Street
Saint Paul, MN 55106-5000

Program requirements

Student licensure

Academic Progress Policy

Students are responsible for understanding the Academic Progress Policy, and for monitoring their academic progress and immediately notifying the Program Director of a low grade or non- completion of a class or other learning.

To remain in good standing and to qualify for completion, students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0. Grades below C+ do not apply to program requirements, but are calculated in the cumulative grade point average.

Academic Probation, Dismissal and Reapplication

Satisfactory Academic Progress

  • Students must maintain satisfactory academic progress to remain in the program.
  • Only courses with a letter grade of C+ (2.67) or better count toward certificate requirements; however, a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 is required for completion.
  • Only courses with letter grades (A–C) are applied to the graduate certificate, with the exception of ADED 690, which is graded as Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S–NS).
  • Students who receive a letter grade of C+ or below in any of the courses will be placed on academic probation. Students who receive a letter grade of C+ or below in two courses, or whose cumulative graduate GPA falls below 3.0, will be dismissed from the graduate certificate program.  
  • Students suspended from the ABE graduate certificate for unsatisfactory academic progress, may reapply after one calendar year has passed. Re-admission to the certificate program is not automatic.
  • Students should immediately consult with the Graduate Certificate Director if they have questions or concerns about their academic standing.

Appeal of Unsatisfactory Academic Progress Removals from the Program

Students suspended from the program for unsatisfactory academic progress may appeal the suspension to the College of Individualized Studies dean. The appeal must be in writing and it must provide specific grounds for the appeal. The appeal to the dean is due within 30 days of receiving confirmation of suspension from the program; appeals received after 30 days will not be considered.

Reactivating into the Certificate Program

Should a student who is admitted to the certificate program not be able to start the program and register for courses, they will be able to retain their accepted status for up to a year; students in this situation should consult with the Certificate Program Director. Students who have been admitted but do not register for courses for more than a year without consulting with the Certificate Program Director, will be dropped from active status and will need to reapply to the program.

Similarly, students who started the program and are in good academic standing, but who have not registered for courses for two semesters, must reapply to the program. If readmitted, students are required to satisfy the degree requirements in force at the time of readmission, if those requirements differ from those in force at the time of original admission.

Time to Completion

The ABE graduate certificate program allows students to complete their certificate program within three semesters. However, students may take up to two years from the first semester of graduate study to complete their program certificate requirements.

Please note that ADED 620: Introduction to Adult Literacy is a prerequisite and must be taken before any of the other courses. Students who are admitted into the certificate program, and who have a background in this area of work, may consult with their advisor to explore completing the program within two semesters; this could mean taking ADED 620 alongside ADED 640, followed by ADED 660 alongside ADED 690. Please note that taking ADED 640 together with ADED 660 is not allowed. Finally, ADED 640: Methods & Strategies of Teaching Adult Literacy must be taken before enrolling in the Field Experience course.

For students not admitted into the certificate program, and who are taking these courses as electives, please note that you must take ADED 620 before any other courses, as it is a prerequisite.

An extension of the time limit may be requested by writing to the Graduate Certificate Program Director. Such requests must be received prior to the expiration of the time limit. Requests for extensions should include:

  • The reason(s) for requesting the extension.
  • A summary of the student's plan to the certificate requirements.
  • A specific date for the extension to expire.

Extension decisions are not automatic, and cannot be appealed.

Course requirements

(14 credits)

ADED 620 Introduction to Adult Literacy

4 credits

This course will cover foundational literacy, and adult foundational literacy skills needed in the workplace and the broader community. The course will address the definitions of foundational basic skills needed in the workplace, community, and family. We will review the evolution of adult literacy in the US, and in Minnesota in particular, and will look at programs, funding, program planning, and the role of employers and unions. The course will also address the need for writing in plain language for low-literacy employees. Finally, the course will also analyze and assess community literacy programs. We will also cover ways of reaching underrepresented groups; the role of community in state and local government; new social action approaches to literacy education; and related issues such as poverty and welfare, ethnicity, cultural diversity, social class, language and learning, and literacy as a tool of empowerment.

Full course description for Introduction to Adult Literacy

ADED 640 Methods and Strategies of Teaching Adult Literacy

4 credits

This course deals with the introductory, intermediate and advanced methods and strategies of teaching adult literacy, paying special attention to teaching English communication for the workplace. As part of our framework, we will use major adult learning theories such as transformative, self-directed, experiential, and cooperative, in order to explore various aspects of adult development as they relate to life-long learning. The course uses extensive readings, class discussions, and site observations of adult basic education centers, community education, and workplace basic education settings to address adult teaching strategies in various environments. The course in particular will address the following topics: learning and improving English and literacy as an adult; initial, intermediate, and advanced approaches to teaching reading, writing and communications skills; theories of learning and curriculum design; technology as a teaching tool; teaching students with disabilities;…

Full course description for Methods and Strategies of Teaching Adult Literacy

ADED 660 Informal and Formal Assessment in Adult Literacy

4 credits

This course will focus on an introduction to ways of formally and informally assessing the literacy of adult learners. Once learner needs have been identified, specific content ¿materials, tools, and instructional methods can be used to assist adult learning in various settings. We will also look at what it means to have fair and appropriate assessments for English as a foreign language; adult English and basic skills needed for work, family, community and continuing education; the uses and issues of standardized tests; assumptions about testing, cultural bias and interpretation of formal tests; and test preparation programs and hiring discrimination caused by misuse of hiring tests. Finally, the course will also cover advanced assessment of adult literacy using methods such as applications and case studies; planning for work, family and community, including transition to post-secondary education career and vocational preparation; and use of formal testing for the GED, college…

Full course description for Informal and Formal Assessment in Adult Literacy

ADED 690 Field Experience

2 credits

This fieldwork course is designed to give learners the opportunity to connect theory with practice and develop real-world teaching experience in adult basic education settings or training. Through this hands-on experience in authentic learning situations, students deepen their commitment to life-long learning and professional development. This two (2) credit fieldwork should be tailored to your experiences and your desired professional journey.

Full course description for Field Experience