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Career Pathways: A Strategy to Boost College Completion and Economic Mobility

Julie Strawn, formerly Principal Associate, Abt Global


May 31, 2022

Abt’s Julie Strawn contributed to the College Completion Strategy Guide – a collaboration among MDRC, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, The Education Trust, and The Institute for College Access and Success.  Because the COVID-19 pandemic has widened economic divides, it is urgent for workforce and postsecondary education systems to support an equitable recovery by supporting advancement from low-wage jobs to family-sustaining employment. One way to address this challenge is to get more people access to education and training that prepare them for better jobs, and to make that education and training more effectively. Community and technical colleges can play a central role in this effort if they can boost their often low completion rates and guide more students toward credentials that pay off substantially in the labor market.

This brief provides evidence-based recommendations to promote college success drawn from rigorous research on career pathways programs, including:

  • Targeting family-supporting jobs and careers from the outset in college workforce training
  • Combining high expectations for students with high levels of support and structure
  • Incorporating contextualized academic support into training at all levels
  • Connecting the college experience much more closely to career outcomes.