After high school, so what? New Grants Make Grade 13 Possible
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has just awarded twelve grants of $175,000. The goal? Create more dual enrollment opportunities for students who might otherwise never consider college.
It’s no secret that attending college is an expensive proposition – and getting more and more expensive every year. Each individual in the class of 2022 leaves with an average of nearly $41,000 in student debt. The total student loan burden in the United States is nearly $1.75 trillionspread over approximately 46 million borrowers.
For many young people, especially from underserved populations, the inflated cost of higher education is completely unsustainable. College is never even on the table for these students, but the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation working to change that. On May 24, the foundation announced the 12 winners of his Accelerate ED subsidies.
These organizations, originating in Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas and of Utah, will each receive $175,000 to bolster their dual enrollment offers. Dual enrollment allows students to take college classes for free while they’re still in high school, saving them time and money on their post-secondary education.
The goal of the Accelerate ED grants is to enable these students to complete up to 30 hours of college credit by the time they graduate from high school. Then they can earn an associate degree in just one more year. The so-called “13e year” is now much more viable for students who may have never considered college as an option.
“This grant concept is dependent on partnerships between high schools, colleges, and local workforce/employers,” says Sara Allan, director of early learning and education pathways at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. . “The goal is to accelerate pathways to economic opportunity and mobility for students who have been historically marginalized.”
Dual registration is not a new idea; in fact, it is estimated at more than 1 million students from across the country participate in a college course while in high school. But not all of these programs are created equal, and access is far from universal. “The challenge with current opportunities that connect high school, college, and work is that they are often not readily available to all students, or disconnected from a clear pathway that extends K-12 and higher education and do not sufficiently include career-related learning or other wraparound services for students,” says Allan.
Additionally, many of the existing dual sign-up programs are random. “Most often, students have experienced random acts of double listing‘, where they end up taking post-secondary courses in high school that don’t transfer or apply to their diploma or certification program when they get to college,” says Allan. “Or they take a handful of professional and technical courses that are not aligned with a valuable post-secondary degree.” It’s hard to imagine motivating high school students to take on college-level work without a clear payoff in sight.
The goal of the Accelerate ED grants is not to reinvent dual enrollment, but rather to make it more efficient and aligned with industry demand. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recognizes that large-scale change must occur in the way K-12 systems, higher education institutions and employers work together to design pathway systems that minimize barriers to the transition and maximize support for all students to gain both valuable credentials and real-world experience,” says Allan. “These partnerships must be based on the needs and aspirations of students and aligned with the local labor market.
Employers have a big role to play in student success. Allan says employer partners provide feedback on pathways to ensure alignment with labor market needs, as well as provide work-based learning experiences, including internships, for students to explore different careers. “Ultimately, these same employers are well positioned to hire young people once they’re done and have the credentials they need for in-demand careers,” she says.
Of approximately 50 groups that applied for the grants, 12 were selected based on criteria such as breadth of team composition (encompassing K-12, higher education, employers and community organizations), focus on diversity and clarity of vision. Applicants’ experience with youth engagement, previous evidence of success, and interest in testing digital/hybrid models were also considered.
Each grant, Allan says, is designed with the goal of students earning a labor market-aligned diploma or associate’s degree by year 13, with a transfer path to a 4-year bachelor’s degree. available. “Scholars will intentionally design a curricular experience that spans grades 9 through 13, with built-in student support,” says Allan. “Each project is also designed to minimize transitions for students and be delivered in a way that makes it universally accessible in secondary schools (e.g. working with colleges to offer hybrid/digital delivery). They are also designing ways to weave together different funding streams and attract funds to support this work and ensure the continued affordability of future classes of students.
During the selection process, the committee noticed patterns among the applicants. “Some key areas were common, such as IT, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and education, and then others that were a bit more specific to their local context, including labor market demands local in every state,” says Allan. . “It’s been interesting for us to look and see which sectors have popped up in apps, where there were unique ones, and where they were common.”
Get families on board
The world’s best dual enrollment program will go nowhere if students and families don’t know about it or see the value in it. That’s why the winning organizations will create their own student-centered guidance panel. “They’ll ask students, ‘What will it take for you to be aware of this, for your family to understand this, for you to feel comfortable participating in this kind of program?’ says Allan. “They all conduct empathy interviews with students to center student and family experiences around the design and implementation of the various pathways.”
Effective dual enrollment is all about timing, so students can make the most of their short high school period. Allan says high schools are the main channel through which students meet and hear about opportunities like dual enrollment. “We know that students and families are eager to understand the post-secondary pathways and workforce opportunities available starting on the 9e level,” she said. School counselors, teachers, and principals in pilot school districts will be invaluable advocates for ensuring students know why dual enrollment may work for them.
“That’s really one of the learning issues that we’re going to assess,” says Allan. “Were these opportunities communicated in a way that resonated with students, was appealing to them, and matched their interests and aspirations? Was there a request? This is one of the things that we will follow over time with our partners.
Break down the silos
I have long argued that education, employment, and economic development must break down their silos to create a viable, goal-oriented future for the next generation. ED Accelerate grants represent an exciting opportunity for communities to do just that – put together the building blocks students need to build a strong future.
“Post-secondary guidance and support at the outset is essential, along with early access to advanced courses aligned with employment credentials,” says Allan. From there, students can connect to community college work around guided pathways, with the benefit of credit mobility and transfer to four-year colleges or rewarding employment.
“We have funded and continue to fund these and other evidence-based practices,” says Allan. “Now the challenge and the opportunity is to bring them together in a coherent and systematic way so that they reach many more students. That’s our goal, to take all of these elements and scale them to truly transform current systems.
For 12 communities, these goals have simply become much more accessible. Congratulations to the winning teams and good luck as you shift the paradigm for the students who need it most.