Highlights findings from the evaluation of the Postsecondary Success Initiative, which sought to place disconnected youth on an educational and workforce pathway through the use of partnerships between community-based organizations and community colleges.

“In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…with the Nellie Mae Foundation, funded the Postsecondary Success Initiative (PSS), a…multi‐site effort to develop…pathways to and through postsecondary education for what [are] known as “Opportunity Youth” – low‐income youth who had dropped out of…traditional education…without a high school diploma or who faced…barriers to further education and success” (p.1).

“The PSS initiative provided grants to 15…community‐based organizations (CBOs) to develop partnerships with…community colleges that would enable formerly disconnected youth to acquire a high school diploma or GED…[go to] postsecondary education or training, and persist…to graduation. The grants to local programs were made through two national program partners ‐‐ YouthBuild USA and the National Youth Employment Coalition… ‐‐ who served as…program intermediaries, selecting sites, providing training and technical assistance…, and monitoring…progress… A third partner, Jobs for the Future,…[conducted] research on promising practices, the development of service‐delivery models, support for the design of cross‐site training, and management of a leadership group” (p.1).

“In 2009, the Gates Foundation contracted with Brandeis University’s Center for Youth and Communities to serve as the evaluation partner for the…initiative. The initial evaluation design focused on assessing the implementation of the initiative” (p.3). Three…questions guided the…evaluation:

  1. “At the local partnership level, to what extent are community‐based…organizations and community colleges able to establish…partnerships that provide…pipelines into postsecondary education for low income youth and the supports needed for a substantial percentage of those youth to attain a credential?
  2. Where effective partnerships are established, what programmatic strategies…are effective in preparing young adults for and supporting them in postsecondary education?
  3. What role can and do the intermediaries in the initiative…play in promoting…the development of effective local partnerships?” (p. 3)

 (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Creating New Pathways to Postsecondary: Evaluation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success (PSS) Initiative

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The primary finding is that the PSS initiative was successful in promoting the establishment of new working partnerships between community colleges and local community‐based organizations that provided new pathways into and through, higher education. While it was too early at the time of this report to have substantial data on college persistence and completion, it is clear that the community‐based organizations in the initiative were successful in…creating a college‐going culture. While making fewer structural changes than the participating CBOs, the community college partners built new and often rich relationships with their CBO partners and incorporated new practices that ranged from improved access to college admissions and advising staff to development of new college transition programs, collaborative case management efforts, and establishment of college courses within the CBO setting. These new partnerships, in turn, provided new pathways for students: by December 2012, well over half of the PSS program participants had entered college and postsecondary training and the data suggest that a substantial majority of those entering college had persisted through beyond their first semester at school. A second key finding is that the new partnerships provide substantial benefits to both sets of organizations: the community colleges and the local youth‐serving CBOs….For the CBOs, the partnerships provide a route to better outcomes for their participants as postsecondary education and training become critical to longer‐term labor market success. As CBO staff came to understand the colleges’ requirements and expectations, they were also better able to prepare their young people for success in that environment. For the community colleges, the PSS partnerships helped the colleges to expand their outreach efforts and strengthen the system of supports available to their students (by leveraging the CBO‐provided supports) at a time when the colleges’ own resources were increasingly constrained. Through the partnerships, CBOs became a ‘new front door’ to college for previously under‐represented students….In short, by opening the pathway between local youth‐serving organizations and community colleges, both types of institutions were able to improve and expand the services provided to their students” (p.5). (Abstractor: Author)