A Fast-Track Associate Degree
Inside Higher Ed
May 25, 2022
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a new grant program to scale already-successful initiatives across the U.S. that help high school graduates attain postsecondary degrees quickly.
A new grant program created and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aims to help high school students complete an associate degree or credential just a year after they graduate high school.
The program, called Accelerate ED: Seamless Pathways to Degrees and Careers, is giving 12 teams across the U.S. approximately $175,000 each to scale existing initiatives that help students obtain an associate degree at the end of their “13th year.”
The 12 teams are composed of people who work in higher education, secondary schools, community organizations, industry and more. They are based in 12 different states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
Sara Allan, director of early learning and pathways at the Gates Foundation in the U.S., said Accelerate ED is a “learning grant” designed to help connect employers, youth-focused community organizations and K-12 and higher education leaders so they can figure out how to expand postsecondary opportunities for more students in their state.
“This particular grant is supporting a lot of work that’s already underway in each of these communities,” Allan said during a press conference. “The challenging thing for communities to do is to put all those together in a way that’s coherent and to design holistic programs that can take advantage of all of those opportunities. So our funding is really to create the time and space and design capacity to do that work, to plan how to scale.”
According to data from the Gates Foundation, 65 percent of jobs today require education and training beyond high school, which makes postsecondary credentials “a prerequisite to achieving greater social mobility and economic prosperity.” Allan said the grants will help the 12 teams create blueprints in their home states for expanding already-successful programs that provide 13th-year associate degrees.