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Austin Community College Improves Career Pathways

Project overview

Austin Community College (ACC) is helping more local students access quality jobs in Central Texas through the Career Scholars program. The initiative trains students in high-demand industries for the region, including healthcare, manufacturing, information technology, and skilled trades. In addition to supporting this work, we partner with ACC to prepare more students for a successful transition to a four-year institution.

ACC Career Scholars provides students personalized academic and career assistance each step of the way. This kind of work is what it takes to reimagine higher education and eliminate equity gaps.

Richard M. Rhodes, Chancellor, Austin Community College District

How it helps

Community colleges enroll almost half of college students in the U.S. each year, including a large proportion of students of color, first-generation college students, and students from low-income households. These institutions have the potential to propel millions of students toward greater prosperity. But far too often, students leave before earning a credential. Just four in ten first-time community college students earn a professional certification or college degree within six years.

To help students complete their education, the ACC Career Scholars program provides each scholar with an individualized support system throughout their time in college. Students receive up to $5,000 to help cover the costs of tuition fees and books. They also have access to scholarship advocates, academic advisors, career mentors, faculty, personalized advising, and learning communities with their peers.

In the program’s first cohort, over 80% of students continued from the first to second year, compared to an average of 50% institution-wide. These outcomes were consistent across students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. This is particularly notable at a time when community colleges nationwide experienced a steep decline in persistence rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By offering robust support and a clear roadmap to success, programs like Career Scholars can help community college students keep their career and educational goals on track.

Bridging the Skills Gap in Central Texas

An estimated 54% of jobs in Texas are considered middle-skill level, but only 45% of Texans have the credentials to qualify. At the same time, there are more than 150,000 families in Central Texas living on low incomes and many face barriers in earning credentials for the jobs that could make a difference. By providing targeted training and comprehensive support to ACC students, we can open the door to these opportunities for more people in our region.

ACC collaborates with local employers and chambers of commerce to identify evolving industry needs and ensure graduates are prepared with the required skills. The program continues to grow partnerships with businesses in highly skilled and high-wage industries within the region to provide students with industry mentors and paid internships. Career Scholars participate in paid internships each semester beginning their first year at ACC, enabling them to gain skills and connections that can propel them toward quality jobs.

Foundation Project Lead