Foundation series

Gates Foundation pushes for scale of dual enrollment and early college

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Diving Brief:

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday announced a series of six-month grants each totaling about $175,000 to support regional design efforts to boost dual enrollment and early college credit offerings.
  • A dozen groups of organizations across the country are receiving grants through an initiative the foundation calls Accelerate ED: Seamless Pathways to Degrees and Careers. Students should be able to earn enough credits to complete an associate’s degree one year after graduating from high school, while gaining career experience at little or no cost, according to the foundation. These pathways are supposed to lead to a good job or allow students to progress to a bachelor’s degree program.
  • The grants are intended to enable leaders to identify what works in different communities and determine what elements can be scaled to be effective in broader partnerships between higher education, K-12 and employers.

Overview of the dive:

Gates Foundation officials have incorporated this new effort as part of their work to promote education and workforce ecosystems in which student success is not tied to race, ethnic origin, sex or socio-economic status. It also aligns with the foundation’s emphasis on the value of post-secondary education.

Those who are black, Hispanic, Latino and from low-income families have long faced tougher labor market and educational outcomes. The pandemic has dealt a further blow to the academic prospects of many students while exacerbating inequalities in the workplace.

About 1 million fewer students were enrolled in higher education in fall 2021 than in fall 2019, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center said earlier this year. Community colleges have been hardest hit. And throughout the pandemic, indicators have shown that the employees most affected are low-income, black and Hispanic workers.

Nearly two-thirds of jobs require training after high school, according to the foundation.

The foundation says early college education, career education and dual enrollment can help boost high school graduation rates and post-secondary success. Students who are able to earn degrees or degrees in demand in the job market can improve their economic mobility, said Sara Allan, director of early learning and pathways at the Gates Foundation, during a conference call on Tuesday.

“One of the main anchoring goals that you see emerging in our broader work on education is this concept of value, the idea that our education systems should be designed to deliver value to the elevates as it progresses,” Allan said.

Over 50 different groups applied for grants. The 12 teams chosen are made up of K-12 leaders, higher education officials, employers and community organizations. A consulting firm, Education Strategy Group, will assist in the design efforts.

The grant-winning groups are located in Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas and Utah. Although each group operates in a different regional economy, several sectors came up frequently as scholarship recipients: healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing and educational pathways.

“It’s really interesting to see that there’s actually some commonality in terms of industry focus,” Allan said.