Lessons Learned from Launching Enrollment Strategies for Out-of-School Youth

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gateway to College specializes in enrolling out-of-school youth (OSY) on career and education pathways.

Out-of-school youth (OSY) are, by definition, difficult to track because they aren’t engaged in our education system. Gateway to College has the largest database of previously OSY in the country through our nationwide programs that reengage youth on meaningful education pathways. Our data shows interesting patterns about OSY – where they are referred from, how they are engaged, and what reengagement efforts are likely to yield the best results.

In our work, we have learned a number of lessons that can be applied to your organization:

Strategic planning ensures enrollment efforts work. In order to launch an effective enrollment strategy, it’s necessary to plan. A strategic enrollment plan is multifaceted and efforts must be continuously evaluated to ensure that you and your partners are spending time on areas that yield the most positive results. There is no single solution that works for every community. A strategic enrollment plan is a living document that is flexible and can adapt to community needs and opportunities.

Student volunteer recruitment strategies are highly effective. Of all stakeholders in this work, current students know best where to find OSY. Gateway to College has launched student-advised efforts to hit the streets, hangouts, and community centers to engage OSY where they spend time. 

Technology is key. Based on our nationwide technology survey, in partnership with Pacific Research and Evaluation (PRE), Gateway students are wireless and the majority (87%) have smartphones. While a YouTube video, social media, or a website are good first steps, how do you ensure your messaging gets to OSY’s phones? Gateway to College has developed an outreach strategy that combines technology and more traditional forms of communication. We utilize posters, fliers, and word-of-mouth along with Search Engine Optimization and smart technology to increase the effectiveness of our outreach and increase site visitors. To learn more about the PRE study, listen to our recorded webinar from September 22. 

Enrolling OSY is a collaborative venture. Many nonprofits and community-based organizations in your community are looking for these youth. There are more OSY than there are programs to serve them. Rather than competing, by working collaboratively organizations can widen the net and ensure OSY are engaged on a pathway that meets their needs and aligns with their goals, while ensuring the programs serving them remain sustainable.

Many OSY are already engaged in other federal/state programs. While OSY aren’t engaged in education, they are often engaged in other social programs including juvenile justice, welfare, workforce, and/or foster youth services. Creating partnerships and referral loops with these federally funded programs meets the needs of all parties.

Student persistence is paramount. Enrollment is only the first step. Student persistence must be part of the strategy from the beginning, and it begins at first contact with OSY. 

Gateway to College has developed a Strategic Enrollment Planning Program through a federal grant from the Social Innovation Fund. We have collaborated in communities around the country to recruit and reengage OSY on education and career pathways. We help organizations meet WIOA eligibility requirements, engage OSY on career pathways, and find solutions to complicated problems. 

Join us on October 14th for a webinar where Mary Wiener and Jeremy Asay will provide detail on some of the above lessons and share our data-supported outreach strategies to enroll OSY on career and educational pathways. Register here. 

Learn more about how Gateway to College can partner with your organization to find and enroll OSY. 

Read more about our federally funded enrollment project. 
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