How degree-granting colleges can reap rewards from alternative pathway students

Several degree-granting colleges and universities have found ways to open students' accessibility to pathway programs—while keeping the door open for continued education.

With Gen Z students loving non-degree pathways, the next logical line of thinking for some degree-granting colleges and universities is about what they can do to enlighten potential students of their institution’s benefits.

“Higher education needs to make sure they’re complementing these types of learning and figuring out how to connect, build pipelines and stack these credentials so they’re not threatening one another but acting in partnership,” said Susan Acevedo-Moyer, researcher at Jobs for the Future, in regard to what institutions can do to attract students interested in alternative pathways.

Students looking for quicker, less expensive modes of education that don’t require a degree can easily find themselves interested in a more traditional mode of education later on, said Acevedo-Moyer. Several degree-granting colleges and universities have found ways to open students’ accessibility to pathways programs—such as apprenticeships, certificates and certifications—while keeping the door open for continued education.

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Reducing financial barriers

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is giving higher education in her state a potential boost in enrollment by lowering the age requirement to 21 from 25 for Michigan Reconnect, a scholarship opportunity available to associate’s degree and certificate-seeking individuals. These Pell-eligible programs allow under-resourced students to get a taste of higher education while alleviating their cost concerns.

One Michigan State University freshman majoring in journalism began his journey as a transfer from a local community college, which Michigan Reconnect paid for. According to MSU’s student newspaper, the program helps students “accomplish the goals and accomplish the dreams that they want to accomplish.”

The University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges is doing something similar with its Good Jobs Hawaiʻi initiative, which provides tuition and fee support for eligible students who enroll in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Addictions Professional certificate programs. Dan Doerger, director of workforce innovation at UH Community Colleges, believes such an opportunity may be just the tip of the iceberg.

“Students interested in pursuing a degree or additional credentials after completing a training can also apply for additional funding to help them advance in their chosen college and career pathway,” he said in a university statement.

School partnerships

Students who gain an interest in more robust degree opportunities after they’ve attended an associate’s degree-granting institution may face one more roadblock before committing: the transfer application process.

As a result, Arizona State University has partnered with Long Beach City College (LBCC) in Long Beach, California, to help students earn a bachelor’s degree fully remote and online.

“This new partnership with ASU will unlock additional educational opportunities for our LBCC students,” said Herlinda Chico, LBCC Board of Trustees president, in a university statement. Because an interstate partnership can pose significant travel barriers for students, ASU is launching ASU Local at LBCC’s Liberal Arts Campus. The hub is set to offer one-on-one spaces for students and success coaches to connect and study.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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