If we want young people to have fulfilling careers and opportunities for economic mobility, we must do more than simply help them graduate from college. Students need support at every stage of their education-to-career pathway. This means not only ensuring access to education after high school—such as a college degree, certificate, or credential showing mastery of a skill—but tools, resources, and support that help them discover a path, stay on it, and ultimately thrive.

Supporting students transitioning from high school to college, career, and beyond

Black and Latino students, and students from low-income backgrounds, universally aspire to thriving adult lives that include financial stability, personal autonomy, and the ability to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Earning a postsecondary credential is critical to realizing this aspiration—yet we see many of these students lose momentum across key transitions between high school, college, and employment.

Few education systems are structured in ways that provide the supports necessary to help students make these transitions successfully. The implications of these navigational challenges are clear: Only 60% of Black and Latino high school graduates immediately transition into a postsecondary program, compared with 70% of their white peers. 

This translates into persistently low postsecondary attainment among Black and Latino students completing a postsecondary degree or certification within six years. Even those students who do ultimately complete credentials struggle with an inequitable labor market, where Black and Latino bachelor’s degree holders continue to earn less than white workers with the same degree.

We aim to ensure that more Black and Latino students, and students from low-income backgrounds, obtain credentials of value and have the professional skills, agency, and social capital needed to be successful in the workforce, recognizing that there is no “one size fits all” path.

For more tools and resources on Pathways, visit Equitable Futures.

Learn more about our pathways strategy and some of our partners including OneGoal and Rush Education and Career Hub (REACH).

Our latest impact

Pathways grantees

JFF Equitable Pathways
Dana Center
Christensen Institute
National Student Clearinghouse Student Tracker
Bellwether Education Partners

Pathways focus areas

We aim to ensure that more Black and Latino students, and students from low-income backgrounds, obtain credentials of value and have the professional skills, agency, and social capital needed to thrive in the workforce by focusing on these main areas.
Supporting students
Interventions such as mentoring, advising, career-connected learning and early credential attainment through meaningful relationships with peers, near-peers and adults have shown real promise in improving education and career outcomes for Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty. We focus on developing, validating, and increasing the use of solutions and approaches that support students on their pathways through postsecondary education and into their careers. For example, we seek to increase the number of high schools providing integrated, effective advising supports for students.

We also invest to expand networks that build social capital for Black and Latino students, forging relationships and opportunities as they access, enroll in, transition into, and gain early momentum on their chosen postsecondary pathway. We also fund partners working to shift high school coursework to better align postsecondary programs with student and labor market demand so students are able to gain early momentum toward credentials of value and remove barriers that too often prevent students from reaching their education and career goals.
Connecting K-12, postsecondary, and the workforce
A key element of pathways work is effective coordination across systems. By developing “public goods” such as effective models, tools, and platforms that can work in different places and in different contexts, we aim to enable better coordination and alignment across the K-12, postsecondary, and workforce sectors. We also shine a light on existing models that have been successful in helping sectors collaborate more effectively. By understanding what it looks like when K-12, higher ed, and employers work together, we can identify approaches communities can replicate to drive success for their students.

We strive to create adaptable roadmaps for how to build effective partnerships between K-12 districts, postsecondary institutions and employers that enable more career-connected coursework and experiential learning for our target population of students. For example, in Texas we work with partners to demonstrate how pathways systems can be built over time through supportive policy, research-based approaches, and data infrastructure that helps drive insights and collaboration.