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MSU Denver receives $2.385 million to develop student-success pathways

Pathways to Possible will provide a smooth transition to and through MSU Denver for low-income students, students of color and rural students.

By Lindsey Coulter

November 18, 2020

Students walking across Auraria Campus.Metropolitan State University of Denver has received more than $2.385 million from Colorado’s Response, Innovation and Student Equity Fund. The award will establish Pathways to Possible, a structured educational pathway to motivate and lead students of color, low-income and rural students from ninth grade through college graduation and into the Colorado workforce, particularly in rural areas. 

“The overarching goal of Pathways to Possible is to create deep connections and engagement opportunities between the University and specific high schools in metro Denver and northeast Colorado,” said Will Simpkins, Ed.D., vice president for Student Affairs. “Programming will focus on engaging and supporting underserved students early in precollegiate planning and college matriculation.”

Pathways to Possible will provide a smooth transition to and through MSU Denver for low-income students, students of color and other students who have been minoritized by the higher-education system. In the first phase, the University will connect students to mental-health services, college coaching and peer communities in a virtual environment along with subsidized concurrent enrollment to get a head start on their college degree. In the second, students will enter MSU Denver as a cohort with access to employment and internship opportunities and scholarships as well as wraparound intrusive advising.

The project builds on MSU Denver’s success as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by ensuring that students access the appropriate pedagogy and curriculum, build relationships with faculty mentors and are closely supported as they move toward degree completion. The grant will expand the faculty-fellows program in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and subsidize employment for students in various peer-to-peer programs at the University (such as Learning Assistants, Peer Mentors, Supplemental Instruction, Technology Teaching Assistants and Equity Peer Mentors). 

“MSU Denver’s access mission is critical to Colorado’s economic recovery but also to continuing the long-term growth the state experienced pre-COVID-19,” said President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. “The Pathway to Possible program will create a new business model for student success, one where high schools, postsecondary institutions and industries work collaboratively to support the academic and career success of low-income students and students of color.”

The program will also rely on two community liaisons embedded in targeted high schools to help recruit and support underserved students. This program will plant the seeds for motivating students toward college beginning in ninth grade through a mentorship program with current MSU Denver students as well as by subsidizing and increasing opportunities for dual-enrollment courses and offering a health-and-wellness curriculum.

To smooth the transition to MSU Denver, Pathway to Possible participants will spend the summer between high school graduation and their first fall at MSU Denver in a summer bridge experience, taking a one-credit University Life course and a three-credit general-studies course, combined with robust pre-orientation activities to build social and academic capital.

To launch a cohort in fall 2021, MSU Denver community liaisons will cultivate new applications from partner high schools throughout spring 2021 and invite already-admitted students to participate. These students will form the first cohort of 285 students. Enrollees will receive $1,000 stipends per academic year. Retention and graduation will be supported with an incentive-based system for study and course completion. Students are guaranteed their stipend support for four years if they meet these requirements. Financial-advising workshops will also be offered through MSU Denver’s Financial Aid Office, and the program will provide many students with an electronic tablet and mobile hotspot.

The award is part of a $32.7 million statewide investment in supporting high-needs school districts, charter schools and public institutions of higher education. It will address the learning challenges related to the economic, social and health impacts of COVID-19 in a manner that creates sustainable innovations that improve student learning, close equity gaps and enhance operational efficiency for pre-K-12 through higher education. Pathway to Possible also aligns with the Colorado Rises Master Plan for Higher Education goals of 66% degree attainment, erasing equity gaps among students of color and low-income students and battling the mental-health, accessibility and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Topics: Access, Award, Excellence, Funding, Student Success

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