Accelerating Student-Centered Pathways

An undergraduate student from UCLA meets with high school students in an AP research class at UCLA Community School.

“I mastered the professional soft skills and gained marketable job skills that led me to my career.”

– Daniel Alexandre, Year Up Graduate

Keep reading to learn more about the impact of Year Up and other promising pathways programs.

As those working in the pathways space, you’re already well aware of the challenges we’re collectively working to address, such as the need to increase access to dual enrollment courses that connect to accelerated postsecondary programs, strengthening advising programs and other student supports, especially for Black and Latino students and students from low-income communities. But as we start a new year, it’s important to focus on the real opportunities we have to build on promising trends.

For example, we know how crucial counselors and student advisors are to the success of young adults. The recent increase in the student-to-counselor ratios demonstrate that schools and districts are recognizing how important advising is to student success and staffing accordingly. The national ratio — now 408 to 1, according to the latest federal data — is down from 424 to 1 before the pandemic and 470 to 1 a decade ago. While we still have a long way to go before we achieve the kind of consistent, equitable advising support all students deserve, the trend is heading in the right direction – and at a time when students are greatly in need of academic and mental-health support.

Another promising trend worth noting is that declines in enrollment at community colleges have slowed substantially to 0.4 percent since last fall, driven entirely by the growth of students in dual-enrollment courses and 18- to 20-year-old students. There too, while we still have a long way to go, trends are pointing in the right direction.

We’re also seeing promising and innovative programs serve as bright spots across the country, such as the Yakima, WA district piloting a new dual-credit option with Arizona State University this fall. This option will allow students to graduate with a diploma and an associate degree without ever needing to leave campus and while creating a more direct pathway to and through college.

Alongside our partners, we’re working to expand access to these types of programs and more clearly define high-quality, structured, accelerated postsecondary pathways for students, because they have no time to waste. In our vision, these structures and programs would be built into every high school so all students are supported and can shape their education and career journeys to fit their aspirations.

You can learn more about these challenges and promising programs in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Pathways’ team new video.

In this issue of Wayfinders, learn about how other promising programs and models that are getting real results for students and families, such as Year Up’s effective job training program which generates significant, sustainable earnings for young adults while also benefitting their communities. We also cover how students in a New York City P-TECH accelerated postsecondary pathways model were more likely to succeed on exams and earn college credits in high school and the positive impacts dual enrollment programs like these have on students applying to college.

Thank you for all the work you do to support students! We hope you are as optimistic as we are that we can make even more progress for students in 2023.

2022 PACE Evaluation: Year Up

As one of nine leading programs selected to take part in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) Evaluation, Year Up has shared its latest program success. This evaluation uses a randomized controlled trial (RCT) which is the rigorous “gold standard” of studies. The 2022 PACE report found that Year Up’s earnings impacts continue to be the largest reported to date for workforce programs. The data is clear: Year Up’s effective job training generates significant and sustainable earnings impacts for young adults and unprecedented benefits to society. The report shows that Year Up participants saw a 30% wage gain six years after graduation. Also, every $1 invested in Year Up resulted in $2.46 in societal benefits.

Impact of Accelerated Postsecondary Pathways Programs

Accelerated postsecondary programs are some of the fastest growing and most effective at supporting the high school-to-college transition. Two recent reports on New York City’s P-TECH schools – which stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools – and college applications and admissions show promising results.

A recent report found significant impacts on NYC’s P-TECH 9-14 students taking Regents exams and passing them with scores required for admission to The City University of New York (CUNY). In addition, the research found that students who enrolled in P-TECH 9-14 programs on average both attempted and earned more college credits at the end of four years of high school than students not participating in the program. 

Another study found that taking dual enrollment credits increased the total number of colleges students applied to and the likelihood of applying to any moderately or highly selective in-state four-year institution. Attempting dual enrollment credits also increased the total number of in-state four-year colleges a student was admitted to and the probability of being admitted to a highly selective in-state four-year college. 

Finally, a recent report from College In High School Alliance found that the momentum in state policy actions can help support accelerated postsecondary pathways.

These research insights add to a growing body of evidence showing that when students are engaged in thinking about potential career paths early – and can take part in clearly defined and structured accelerated postsecondary pathways programs – the benefits are seen in both students’ near-term and long-term outcomes.

What We’re Reading