RWU First in RI to Partner with Gateway to College to Help High School Dropouts Earn College Degrees

Starting in September 2017, the program will work with the Providence and Pawtucket public school districts

A view of the RWU Providence campus building.
At RWU's School of Continuing Studies, high school drop-outs from the Providence and Pawtucket public school systems will be provided a path to earning both a high school diploma and an associate's degree through a new partnership with the Gateway to College National Network.
Public Affairs Staff

PROVIDENCE, R.I. ­­– Roger Williams University will become the first university in Rhode Island to partner with the Gateway to College National Network, offering former high school dropouts a clear path to securing both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

Starting in September 2017, the partnership plans to begin with students from the Providence and Pawtucket public school systems. Students will complete their high school and college-level course work in the School of Continuing Studies at RWU’s new Providence campus, at One Empire St.

Gateway to College programs operate at 39 colleges in 20 states around the country. But this will mark the first time Gateway to College has partnered with a university in Rhode Island and only the second time it has partnered with a private university.

Based in Portland, Ore., Gateway to College is providing a $150,000 planning grant for RWU to launch the program in Rhode Island. Through Gateway to College, students who have dropped out of high school or are significantly off track complete their high school diplomas at college-based programs while simultaneously earning college credits toward a postsecondary credential.

“As a private university serving a public purpose, it was easy for us to decide on a partnership between Roger Williams University and Gateway to College,” said RWU President Donald J. Farish. “We will be working with Providence and Pawtucket school districts to reintegrate high school dropouts back into the educational pipeline, in order to help them earn the skills and credentials necessary to succeed in today’s knowledge economy. We have to give these young people hope —after all, ‘Hope’ is our state’s motto!”

“We’re proud to launch our first program in Rhode Island, and excited to see an additional pathway to high school graduation and a postsecondary credential for young people in the state,” according to Emmily Froimson, president of the Gateway to College National Network.

“I am thrilled to be partnering with Gateway to College to bring this program to Rhode Island.” said Jamie Scurry, dean of RWU’s School of Continuing Education. “The conversation started in 2012 and nearly five years later, here we are preparing for launching Gateway to College with the Providence and Pawtucket school districts.”

Students are often told that a high school diploma is preferred to a GED, but when some students struggle, their choices are limited, Scurry said. “There are too few options that meaningfully lead to a high school diploma and simultaneously put students on a pathway to an associate’s degree, all while holistically addressing obstacles that many students face in their educational journey. This program, like all of what we do at the SCS, is based on thoughtful partnership, shared ethos and a commitment to meeting students (and families) where they are in their individual and collective pursuits.”

“Some high school students experience unforeseen circumstances, life events and other barriers that can disrupt their pathway to graduation,” said Christopher Maher, superintendent of the Providence school district. “The Providence Public School District is excited to work with Roger Williams University and the Gateway to College National Network to help these young people earn their degrees and get back on the track to success.”

“Our teachers have worked diligently to improve our high school graduation rates and the results have been remarkable,” said Patricia DiCenso, superintendent of the Pawtucket school district. “Although we have made great gains by preparing more graduates, we are not at 100 percent.”

So the district strives to find opportunities that allow every child to complete their high school diploma, and RWU has worked with the district on programs and professional development for students and staff, DiCenso added. “We are honored to partner again with RWU and The Gateway Program as we provide another alternative that will capture the interest and passion of students to achieve their high school diploma. Flexible scheduling, creative curriculum and supportive staff are all benefits for us to offer students another path to their goals and dreams.”