Less than two years after National Louis University developed the innovative Harrison Professional Pathways program, it received national attention.
Aarti Dhupelia, NLU’s vice president for strategic initiatives, explained the program’s goals and design to representatives from other universities on a webinar produced by Academic Impressions, which provides professional development resources to colleges and universities nationwide.
Dhupelia made the point that other universities can replicate the Pathways program in order to help underserved high school students with 2.0 to 3.0 high school GPAs attend college. NLU created Pathways because less than one-third of Chicago Public Schools high school graduates complete college and graduate.
The program addresses head-on many of the barriers to college which confront these students. Many can’t afford college costs, so NLU designed the Pathways program with a $10,000 per year tuition, which can be reduced to zero with federal and state financial aid.
Because many students are not academically prepared for college, Pathways uses adaptive technology and a flipped learning model to meet them where they are and instruct them at their own pace. There are also student success coaches who meet with students to keep them on track.
Dhupelia also shared the design of the academic program, the business model and financial efficiencies which enable NLU to offer the low tuition and the student support model.
She also shared what NLU is learning so far by analyzing data about students in the program. For example, NLU has learned that students’ high school GPAs are somewhat predictive of college success, but their ACT scores are not. Also, students who start working hard on their studies as soon as the program begins are most likely to do well; and overall, students’ course attendance is the strongest predictor of their college GPA – meaning that a student showing up and doing the work in college is more important than whatever their high school academic performance might have been.
NLU hopes to have 1,600 students enrolled in the program by 2020, and make significant strides toward closing the achievement gap for underserved high school graduates.