Colleges open door to high school dropouts

Community colleges are working with dropout recovery programs to help uneducated youths get back on track, reports Community College Times.

Back on Track, which offers academic and social supports, is a project of  Jobs for the Future (JFF), YouthBuild USA, the National Youth Employment Coalition(NYEC), and the Corps Network, with support from the Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations.

In Ohio, faculty from Columbus State Community College (CSCC) teach courses at a YouthBuild school. The college has also worked out an articulation agreement with the program to provide for a smooth transition, said Mike Snider, former provost of CSCC who now works with the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

Public two-year colleges in Ohio are “proud of our open door system,” Snider said, “but that’s not good enough. We’re moving the door out into the community.”

“Dropouts are an untapped asset,” he added. “We cannot afford to lose potential productive citizens.”

Back on Track students “are graduating from high school, enrolling in postsecondary education and persisting in the first year at two to three times the rate of their peers,” according to JFF.

NYEC, which provides education, work experiences and counseling to drop-outs, also claims a high success rate. Eight community colleges are working with NYEC programs in partnership with community-based organizations.

In Texas, the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District has partnered with South Texas College to create the College, Career and Technology Academy, which allows former dropouts to complete their high school diplomas while taking community college courses. The program targets youths up to age 26 who lack five or fewer credits or failed their high school exit exam.

The 31,000-student school district has reduced the number of dropouts from 485 in 2005-06 to 42 in 2010-11.

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HS Dropout/Ivy Grad

As a high school dropout who went back to school twenty years late and graduated with honors and Phi Beta Kappa from an Ivy League university, I can attest to the untapped potential among America’s dropouts. Yes, the path can be difficult, but so many dropouts leave school not for academic reasons, but because of myriad social, economic, and family challenges, which can easily interfere with America’s all-too-rigid high school curricula. High school is not well-suited for many students, especially gifted, but low-resource students, students with children, or students living in poor or violent family environments.

Moreover, first generation students face a huge knowledge gap in understanding what college is about and how it really works. For, example if i had known that I could take a full-time college schedule, but only attend class two days a week, I might never have dropped out in the first place. I had known that college was not all about frat parties, beer bashes, and football games, I might have been a lot less reticent to apply.

Colleges need to communicate better to high school students and try to appeal to first generation and low resource kids by focusing less on the admissions process and more on the magic of the educational process.

Jobs for the Future

Thank you for sharing news of our Back on Track work. We wanted to clarify a few points.

Jobs for the Future’s long-standing commitment to improving the prospects of low-income 16- to 26-year-olds drives our focus on creating pathways to postsecondary credentials and family-sustaining careers for the 480,000 low-income students who drop out of high school each year.

In serving this population, Jobs for the Future has developed a Back on Track: Pathways Through Postsecondary model. The model draws on lessons learned in JFF’s work with innovative diploma and GED-granting programs, districts, intermediaries, and networks that support many of them, and a decade of JFF’s work developing and scaling up early college high schools for low-income, first-generation college goers.

On November 2, 2011, JFF co-hosted a briefing in Washington DC (Nov. 2) that focused on the success of Back on Track models developed by YouthBuild USA and The National Youth Employment Coalition working with JFF through the Bill and Melinda Gates sponsored Postsecondary Success Initiative. The Postsecondary Success Initiative uses the Back on Track: Pathways Through Postsecondary design to help students who have dropped out earn a secondary credential and then enter and succeed in postsecondary education. JFF is supporting the efforts of its partners in the Postsecondary Success Initiative–along with their networks of local sites and affliated community colleges — and providing them with technical expertise, tools, products, and services to strengthen their program designs in order to increase the number of low-income youths aged 18-26 earning a postsecondary credential with value in the labor market. This year The Corps Network is joining the initiative.

For more information on Back on Track: Pathways Through Postsecondary models, go to

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