Accelerated Associate Degrees for Students in Need

A new grant program created and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aims to help high school students earn an associate’s degree or credential just one year after graduating from high school.

The program, called Accelerate ED: Seamless Pathways to Degrees and Careers, gives 12 teams across the United States about $175,000 each to scale existing initiatives that help students earn an associate’s degree at the end of their “13th year”.

The 12 teams are made up of people who work in higher education, secondary schools, community organizations, industry and more. They are based in 12 different states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas and Utah.

Sara Allan, director of early learning and pathways at the Gates Foundation in the US, said Accelerate ED is a “learning grant” designed to help connect employers, youth-focused community organizations and primary and higher education officials so they can understand how to expand post-secondary opportunities for more students in their state.

“This particular grant supports a lot of work that is already underway in each of these communities,” Allan said at a press conference. “The challenge for communities is to bring it all together in a cohesive way and design holistic programs that can take advantage of all of these opportunities. So our funding is really about creating the time and the space and the design capacity to do this work, to plan for scaling.

According to data from the Gates Foundation, 65% of jobs today require education and training beyond high school, making post-secondary degrees “a prerequisite for greater social mobility and economic prosperity.” Allan said the grants will help the 12 teams create plans in their home states to expand already successful programs that offer 13th-grade associate degrees.

For example, Ohio’s Grade 13 Pathway to Career Success allows high school students in Dayton, Ohio, who earn a certain number of college credits in their senior year, to graduate with a college degree. partner a year later. These students are then accepted into a four-year state university to complete their bachelor’s degree. The $175,000 grant will help expand the program beyond Dayton to 16 districts in Montgomery County and around the state.

Thomas Lasley, acting CEO of Learn to Earn Dayton and dean and professor emeritus at the University of Dayton, who is a member of the Ohio team, said the initiative provides students with a low-cost opportunity to advance their studies and begin to pursue a career.

“As a former college dean, I’m really excited about the 13-year-old model and what it will mean for our students in Dayton and Ohio,” Lasley said. “We’ve advocated for career paths that mitigate the costs of a college education for years.”

The Louisiana initiative, called Growing Bridge Year Pathways Across New Orleans, will see three local training providers expand their curriculum so 11th and 12th graders can earn post-secondary credentials. Education providers — who span a range of industries, including healthcare, engineering, manufacturing, and culinary arts — will use Louisiana’s Grade 13 bridging program to create pathways for students to earn an associate’s degree or industry-based equivalent degree.

The team will also work to increase enrollment in the program from 160 in 2022-2023 to 250 in 2023-2024 and create a guide for establishing dual enrollment vocational and technical education courses for organizations. of the whole state.

Jake Gleghorn, director of strategic initiatives at the New Orleans Career Center, said the team — which is made up entirely of employees of nonprofit community organizations — will create a list of resources to help students and their families choose the way that suits them best. He noted that the team partnership will help the four nonprofit organizations work together so they can reach more students.

“How can we work together and plan and design what this system looks like and grow enrollment together rather than competing for places and students?” he said.

An Austin, Texas initiative called Scalable Success aims to expand the Texas Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program – which allows students to receive both a high school diploma, a technical diploma and/or an associate degree – to reach more students across the state.

Organizations represented on the Texas team include E3 Alliance, an educational collaboration in Austin; the Austin Community College District; four independent school districts; and others. Creslond Fannin, executive director of Austin Independent School District Early and P-TECH High School, said Austin Community College will serve more than 1,000 students through a program that will allow them to enter the workforce while making their degrees stackable so that they can pursue higher education if they wish.

The Gates Foundation’s new grant program was specifically designed to help more black and Latino students earn post-secondary degrees, Allan said. About 60% of black and Latino high school graduates immediately enroll in a post-secondary program, according to foundation data. Of those who enroll, only 38% of black students and 46% of Latino students earn a post-secondary degree or certification within six years.

“This work has become even more urgent in the face of COVID-19, which has laid bare the inequities in our education and workforce systems and illustrated the stark differences in which students access these learning experiences. learning and supports to maintain the high school’s momentum. in post-secondary education and work and who don’t,” said Allan. “In particular, we see many Black and Latino college students and students from low-income backgrounds postponing their dreams and pulling out of their journey to take jobs to support their families and juggle other responsibilities.”

Martha Parham, senior vice president of public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, said she was happy to see the announcement of the grants. She added that anything higher education can do to clear pathways to completion is important.

“At AACC, we know that access is not enough,” Parham said. “We need to make sure that students are able to succeed and really create models, processes and systems that enable this. So we’re thrilled whenever we can pave the way for success.

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