Last week, PBS News Hour ran a weeklong series looking at innovations across the country that help more young people find their way through to a higher education degree or certification. As workforce demands increasingly require advanced education, low-income students are often shut out of opportunities. The reports covered key topics identified in EPIC’s Four Keys to College and Career Readiness and showed the value of partnerships and academic alignment inherent in EPIC’ Bridge the Divide program. We are working with partners across the country to help close the graduation gap. Below you will find links to each video segment and a brief note about what we found intriguing. The short episodes share inspiring stories of students who are on track for brighter tomorrows.

Who Drops Out and Why?
Highlights: Because the biggest indicator of college completion is household income (not grades, or SAT scores, or financial aid), the University of Texas at Austin looked to build support systems to connect low-income students to the university and classmates, and helped to recognize and address pressing issues in their home and academic lives.

Bold Move on the Border
Highlights: The collaboration between Far San Juan Alamo School District and South Texas College has brought free college classes to all high school students, resulting in associate and certificate degrees being handed out at the same time as high school diplomas. The program takes early initiative to introduce critical Four Keys skills and the academic alignment required to transition successfully to higher education.

Beyond Merit Aid
Highlights: Merit-based support is a rich and empowering reward for earnest hard work in high school, but it can only be spread across so many students. A bold, need-based financial support policy out of Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania changes our ideas of how to address the toughest reality—affordable college—and brings another kind of richness to the school—diversity.

The 4-Year Degree Dilemma
Highlights: The Direct Connect program shows how a strong and successful partnership allows Valencia College to be a bridge to the University of Central Florida, resulting in 25% of UCF’s graduating class having taken classes at Valencia. The critical issue of transfer credits (where nationally one in seven students lose 90% of their transfer credits when moving to a 4-year institution) has been addressed through alignment and rigorous work, all designed to put student success at the forefront.

A New University
Highlights: Arizona State University is now the nation’s largest public university, with an undergraduate enrollment over 67,000. ASU expanded access and shook up their admission standards. The school’s on-campus and online offerings have grown to accommodate student needs. To keep a handle on the progress of the burgeoning and diverse population, a degree tracking program is in place to give early warning to students about pathways and to offer suggestions if they veer off course.

Kirsten Aspengren, Director of Curriculum Alignment