Pathway to the Baccalaureate: A Head-Start on College Readiness
Jose Morales*, a Philadelphia graphic artist, recalls how overwhelmed he felt by the college application process some 20 years ago. A promising student and the first in his family to apply for college, he could not seek help from his immigrant parents, who had learned English but were intimidated by all the paperwork. "There were a couple of times when I wondered if it was even worth applying," he said.
Morales gained entry into a four-year college and graduated with a bachelor's degree. However, countless high school students with backgrounds similar to his choose not to pursue a post-secondary education. The reasons are numerous: Financial hardship, an absence of mentors, no college-going tradition in the family.
Robert Templin, president of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and a panelist at the "Innovation and America's Future" Forum, became aware that a significant number of high school students who were applying to NOVA were unsuccessful in enrolling. Determined to address regional education issues, he met with local leaders in K-12 and higher education in 2004. The result was the Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program.
In order [for our workforce] to be competitive, we have to go after segments of the population who have not historically gone to college," Templin said during the forum. "NOVA has formed a partnership with local schools through which we identify [high school] students who have potential but are not likely to develop that potential unless an adult figure becomes engaged in their life."
Through Pathway, NOVA embeds counselors in the partner high schools to work directly with students who have been admitted into the program. Counselors offer guidance on how to prepare emotionally and financially for college, what courses to take in high school to meet college admission requirements, and major and career selection. The program also provides placement test preparation.
Nationally recognized as an innovative model in education, Pathway operates at 48 high schools throughout Northern Virginia. This year's cohort comprises 6,500 students. "Their performance is stellar," Templin said. "They're graduating from NOVA at twice the rate as our native students."
Please share your ideas on how to help high school students transition to college. What do you think are the strengths of NOVA's program? What impact do you think programs such as these have on workforce development?
*Name changed for privacy