Pathways at NLU (Pathways) seeks to address the most critical barriers inhibiting bachelor’s degree attainment for low-income students. Operating as a program within National Louis University, Pathways provides an innovative, student-centered, technology-enhanced bachelor’s degree model at an affordable cost.
Why We Invested
Pathways provides critical wraparound supports that empower low-income, first generation college students to earn a bachelor’s degree. Today, only 39 percent of comparable Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of completing high school. Through a student-centered model that provides an affordable, structured, and supportive environment, Pathways is working to close the bachelor’s degree attainment gap between low-income students and their higher income peers. While the program is only entering its fourth year and outcomes are limited, early results are promising. The program’s first class persisted into its second year at a rate of 78 percent, outpacing a 53 percent college persistence rate of a comparable CPS population. Leading Pathways is Aarti Dhupelia as National Louis University’s Vice President of Undergraduate Education. Dhupelia is an experienced education leader with the unique ability to manage both people and outcomes. With her at the helm, we are confident that Pathways can accelerate students’ academic performance and scale significantly over the next couple of years.
Pathways set an ambitious goal to grow from a cohort of 82 students to over 1,800 by the fall of 2020 when it launched in 2015. We remain confident these goals are attainable given the program’s large addressable market, the need from the program’s target population and the program’s current track record of growth. Additionally, National Louis University recently launched a newly reorganized undergraduate college, which we believe is a positive development for Pathways given the opportunity to ensure a unified four-year experience for Pathways students. Together, National Louis University and Pathways will continue their work towards becoming a highly visible option for students in Chicago.
- Leadership Development: Pathways’ leadership team is participating in Leading for Impact®, a cohort-driven leadership development program run by the Bridgespan group. A Better Chicago is covering 75 percent of the fees.
- Brand Strategy: Pathways worked with a consultant to develop a university brand strategy to support its marketing and communications efforts. A Better Chicago helped scope the project and covered 75 percent of the fees.