When done right, college and career pathways provide intentional, career-aligned courses that span secondary and postsecondary education, embed work-based learning experiences, and lead to credentials of value. Over the past five years, thanks to philanthropic investment and federal and state investments in pathways programming, Colorado has seen significant growth in these experiences across the state.
While these programs improve outcomes for those involved, access and quality still need to be improved. Data reviewed by Colorado’s Secondary, Postsecondary, and Work-Based Learning Integration Task Force underscores that, too often, historically marginalized learners, particularly Black and Latinx learners and learners experiencing poverty, do not have the same opportunities as their peers.
If Colorado doesn’t address access and participation inequities, our state risks growing our already high equity gaps in attainment.
Additionally, suppose high school pathways don’t have strong connections to postsecondary opportunities. In that case, the state may see postsecondary participation rates continuing to decline at a time when more than 90 percent of jobs that provide a family living wage require a postsecondary credential.
To address these systemic challenges and encourage innovation and the iteration of models being implemented on the ground in local districts, Colorado is leveraging a national initiative and network for on-the-ground innovation.
Launch: Equitable & Accelerated Pathways for All is a national college and career pathways initiative that strives for every learner to have access to and succeed in high-quality and equitable pathways.
Colorado is one of five states participating in the innovation cohort. The Innovation Cohort has engaged in a Design Thinking process to identify system-level barriers and develop next-generation solutions for some of the most pressing challenges in college and career pathways.
Colorado Succeeds leads Colorado’s team, which includes representatives from the Colorado Education Initiative, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Colorado Mountain College, Summit School District, and REACH University. Though the team is still in the design phase, we are excited to work with the five national Launch partners.
We will identify common pain points in our college and career pathways, course correct where needed, and design additional supports aimed at common areas of challenge that need to be addressed more systematically through collaborative efforts.