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The Gateway to College National Network, A Gateway to Sucess

by CNCS Staff

Lawrence Caldwell quit school, ran away from an abusive home and was well on his way to becoming another faceless statistic of America's drop out crisis, until he enrolled in the Gateway to College program at Montgomery College in Maryland. He excelled academically and is now an undergraduate at The George Washington University.

Stories like Lawrences' are the reasons why the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation awarded Gateway to College National Network a SIF subgrant to expand and scale its programs to serve more youth like Lawrence. Active in 16 states, the program provides an alternative education program on college campuses that is helping thousands of at-risk youth like Lawrence earn high school diplomas and college credit hours.

Gateway to College National Network builds the capacity of colleges, school districts and states to revolutionize education for high school dropouts and underprepared college students so that all young people can achieve academic credentials.

Support from the Social Innovation Fund will help Gateway leverage at least $5.25 million in private funding over three years to expand in up to nine states -- California, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee -- and serve up to 1,650 more young people.

Nationally, only about one-third of American high school students graduate on time and are ready for postsecondary work, while a third of students never graduate at all. This has serious consequences for their employment prospects.

In April 2011, the unemployment rate among adult workers with college degrees was 4.5%; for adults who had not gone to college it was 9.7% – more than twice as high; but, for workers over 25 years of age who had not completed high school, the rate was an alarming 14% – three times as high.

Gateway to College provides an alternative education program on college campuses that helps students earn a high school diploma while also earning college credits. The average student that enters Gateway holds a high school GPA of only 1.5 and faces the glaring statistic that only 19% of high school dropouts will earn a diploma within eight years of their expected graduation date.

However, of the students who complete the first term of Gateway's Foundation Experience, 52% earn a high school diploma. By the time they complete the full program, all the Gateway graduates will have earned a high school diploma and an average of 35 college credit hours. Nearly 70% of them say their goal is a bachelor's degree or higher.

Lawrence Caldwell is one example of how Gateway's programs are improving the lives of high school dropouts. Lawrence entered the Gateway to College program at Montgomery College in Maryland during the spring of 2007 with only 8 out of the 22 high school credits needed for a diploma.

While enrolled in the program, Lawrence also worked full-time and became the guardian of his younger brother after a lengthy custody battle. He excelled academically and, in April 2010, was one of only 40 community college students across the country awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

Upon completion of his studies at The George Washington University, Lawrence plans to attend law school and become a family court lawyer so he can help young people in difficult circumstances.

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