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Colorado Commission on Higher Education approves five pilot program participants for the Path4Ward initiative

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DENVER (March 7, 2022) The Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) approved five partnerships for participation in a newly created Path4Ward pilot program.

The five-year program allows low-income, early high school graduates from participating pilot high schools to receive funding for postsecondary education or training programs during what would have been their fourth year of high school. The program addresses the financial burdens often faced by students who wish to graduate early and pursue career and postsecondary education and training outside of the high school setting.
“The Path4Ward creates significant cost-savings for qualified students,” said Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director at the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE). “Students are awarded state funds to get a head-start on their postsecondary education, whether it be a vocational program, apprenticeship or traditional college or university.”
Early graduates receive grants to use at higher education institutions, private occupational schools, or workplace learning and training programs. These one-year grants range from $2,400 to $4,100 depending on how early the recipient graduates. This program was authorized by SB21-106 as the Fourth-Year Innovation Pilot Program.
“These five partnerships are pivotal in expediting the pathway to higher education opportunities for many of our low-income students. At its core, this innovative approach supports students who excel academically and have a desire to begin exploring their career trajectories,” said Sen. James Coleman, a sponsor of the legislation. “The Path4Ward program serves as a bridge for students to access postsecondary opportunities sooner and supports our efforts in ending educational inequities.”  
CDHE opened online applications to the program in January. CDHE staff convened a review panel of individuals from inside and outside of the Department to recommend participants, which were then reviewed and approved by CCHE. Successful applicants exhibited a clear vision for integrating the Path4Ward into existing resources and opportunities, effective planning to provide information and support to potential early graduates, a commitment to meeting specific student and community needs, and represent a mix of schools from urban, suburban, and rural areas. The five selected program participants are: 

  • Adams 12 Five Star Schools
  • Harrison School District 2
  • The Success Foundation Serving Greeley-Evans Schools
  • Colorado Early Colleges Network and The Academy of Charter Schools, both of the Colorado Charter School Institute
  • Consortium of Montezuma-Cortez, Clear Creek, East Grand, and West Grand School Districts

CDHE projects an initial graduating class of around 125 students. Districts will support students who express interest in an early graduation pathway by guiding them through early graduation requirements, possible grant-eligible programs they may enroll in, and through a variety of counseling approaches. Students can use their grants at a qualifying postsecondary program and must begin within 18 months of graduation. CDHE will work closely with schools and postsecondary programs to study outcomes and develop best practices from the pilot program experience.
Colorado Succeeds is partnering with CDHE to offer technical assistance and implementation support to the pilot program participants.
“We see incredible potential in this program and the impact on individual learners who will be empowered with resources and navigation supports to pursue their interests and build skills relevant to in-demand careers,” said Shannon Nicholas, chief of staff with Colorado Succeeds. “Our hope is to learn alongside them and to continue to reach for a vision where all learners are educated to their greatest potential, regardless of demographics or zip code.” 
About Colorado Succeeds
Colorado Succeeds is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of business leaders working to ensure that all of Colorado's children are educated to their greatest potential, and all of Colorado's businesses have the homegrown talent they need to thrive.