Gateway to College: Lessons from Implementing a Rigorous Academic Program for At-Risk Young People

Gateway to College
Implementing Organization: 
Gateway to College
Edna McConnell Clark Foundation

Gateway to College serves students who have dropped out of high school, or are at risk of dropping out, by providing the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and credits towards a postsecondary degree.

Gateway to College conducted an implementation study to better understand the Gateway to College model, assess the extent to which it was implemented as designed, and draw lessons for Gateway to College sites. The implementation evaluation was conducted at three Gateway locations, with one site per state: California, Colorado, and Washington.

The evaluation aimed to answer four questions and found:

Who does the model serve?

The population served at these three sites is both challenged and promising. Many of the students enrolled in the program had not been disconnected from education for long periods of time. This finding suggests that the program may have a stronger focus on dropout prevention than dropout recovery.

Were the core elements of the model implemented as planned?

At a high-level, the participating sites implemented the core model as designed. This is a promising finding since implementing elements of the core model is what makes this program most effective.

What kinds of adaptations were made to meet the needs of the local contex and student population?

The main adaptations across the three sites included how the career development course was implemented and how the learning communities were formed.

What factors facilitated or impeded successful program implementation?

One important factor that most students found useful was the strong relationships they developed with instructors anResource Specialists (counselors/ advisors). Students at thethree sites appreciated being treated with maturity and respect by program staff. If a student began to fall behind, program staff worked with the student to identify ways of mitigating their challenges, as opposed to punishing the student. The biggest challenge experienced by the program was retaining students in the program during the initial term. Less than half of students were able to pass all of their Gateway to College courses and successfully transition to a mainstream community college.


CNCS Program(s): 
Social Innovation Fund
CNCS Focus Area(s): 
Youth Development (SIF)
Age(s) Studied: 
13-17 (Adolescent)
18-25 (Young adult)
Focus Population(s)/Community(s): 
Opportunity Youth
Low Income
Outcomes Category(s): 
Post-Secondary Educational Support
Study Type(s): 
Study Design(s): 
Level of Evidence: 
Year Published: 
Date Posted Online: 
January 12, 2016
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