Pipeline to Degree

Increasing the number of low-income and under-represented Californians who earn a bachelor’s degree involves laying the groundwork for a high-school-to-college pipeline. Research suggests that only 19% of California’s ninth graders will ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating high school. Most students exit the pipeline during the transition from high school to college, or before they are able to transfer from two-year to four-year institutions.

Currently, the three segments of California’s public education system­—K-12, community colleges, and four-year institutions—function independently, with their own educational goals and incentives. This patchwork creates numerous obstacles to degree attainment—obstacles that present particular challenges to low-income students.

Traditional remediation sequences are barriers that make it more difficult—not less—for students to earn degrees. Different measures of college readiness between high schools and college systems have funneled nearly half of entering California State University students into traditional remedial courses. In California’s community colleges, 80% of entering students are placed into remedial courses for which they earn no transferable credits. Recent data shows that, of community college students placed into remedial math education, only 9% eventually earn a bachelor’s degree.

Another barrier to degree completion is the lack of clear guidance for students seeking transfer from two-year to four-year colleges. California’s community colleges present students with a cafeteria menu of disconnected courses, making it difficult to design programs of study that will prepare students to transfer within two years.

By aligning curricula, harmonizing expectations and assessment standards, and mapping clear pathways to guide students through and between institutions, California’s education systems can ensure that millions more young people can achieve the dream of a college degree.

Initiative Intent

The goal of the Pipeline to Degree initiative is to strengthen the institutions that prepare students for college and ensure effective transitions from high school to college, and from two-year to four-year institutions. Participating institutions seek to:

Form enduring regional partnerships that align high schools, community colleges and four-year institutions around shared standards of college readiness and a common goal to improve college completion rates in their region.

Smooth the transition from high school to college and from two-year to four-year institutions by developing clear pathways for student progress, from scheduling and course sequencing to curricula alignment and dual enrollment opportunities.

Build the capacity of institutions and partnerships to collect and interpret data about practices that improve transitions and outcomes for low-income students, and to share that knowledge with the field.

Our Focus

We work to support these goals by providing:

Opportunities for collaboration by convening leaders from high schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions to articulate and address shared goals, develop local action plans, and evaluate progress.

Financial support for institutions implementing dual enrollment, college-preparatory math programs, accelerated remediation, and Guided Pathways.

Technical assistance to institutions as they form partnerships, develop governance structures, and create systems for measuring and interpreting data.