news and events

Education Design Lab’s #Micropathways Initiative Celebrates Year 1 with New Report and 2nd Cohort

+ New report: The Lab unveils 30+ micro-pathway models and design insights from the first cohort of the Community College Growth Engine Fund
+ New cohort announced: Four major community college systems join the Fund
+ National Convening: College leaders, employers + funders gather Wednesday, Jan. 19

WASHINGTON, D.C. (JANUARY 18, 2021) — Education Design Lab, a national nonprofit that designs, implements, and scales new learning models for higher education and the future of work, today announced the release of its Year 1 insights in a new report, along with the second cohort of colleges participating in the nationally recognized Community College Growth Engine Fund (the Fund) initiative that designs micro-pathways, a new class of credentials.

New report

We’re at a pivotal moment for forging the robust changes needed to better serve new majority learners. As community colleges continue to address inequities amplified by the pandemic, the Lab releases its latest Design Insights Brief, featuring 30+ micro-pathway models co-created through its human-centered design process. Insights include:

  • Learners need practical pathways with a clear return on investment (ROI) as well as flexibility in format and timing.
  • Employers see the micro-pathway co-design process as transformative to deepening their relationships with community colleges.
  • For community colleges, the micro-pathway design process can serve as a gateway to institutional transformation.

Cohort 2 announcement

Building on the momentum of the first cohort, which included Seattle Colleges (WA), Pima Community College (AZ), Ivy Tech Community College (IN), the City University of New York (NY), Prince George’s Community College (MD), and Austin Community College District (TX), the Fund announces four new colleges and systems for Year 2 (and their sector focus areas under consideration):

  • Colorado Community College System (Energy + healthcare)
  • Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona (Advanced manufacturing + IT)
  • Bunker Hill Community College in Boston (Healthcare + IT)
  • The Community College of Philadelphia (Healthcare; STEAM life sciences + technology; and transportation + logistics)

Dr. Lisa Larson, Head of the Community College Growth Engine Fund: “Learner attitudes about school and work are shifting, employers are at the table looking for new solutions, and community colleges are on the brink of change. There has never been a more pressing moment to figure out what the next generation of community colleges are and, importantly, how to get there. So far, we’ve seen firsthand how the Fund’s Micro-pathway model and design process can serve as a gateway to community college transformation.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Education Design Lab and roll out this exciting approach to program design at our colleges,” said Joe Garcia, Chancellor of the Colorado Community College System. “This collaboration keeps us at the forefront of work-based learning innovation and will help us meet the needs of our growing adult learner population.”

Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, Chancellor of Maricopa Community College District: “This generous support and investment from the Community College Growth Engine Fund will enable our East Valley colleges to strengthen community partnerships to support new pathways to employment in high-demand fields.”

Dr. Pam Eddinger, President, Bunker Hill Community College: “With the average community college student around 27, it is a necessity to have career tracks in the workforce for the adult learner.”

Dr. Donald Guy Generals, President, Community College of Philadelphia: “Now, more than ever, it’s important for students to have access to intentional, industry-recognized training that will help them obtain family-sustaining jobs.”

National Convening

College leaders, employers + funders will discuss the transformative micro-pathway initiative during a National Convening on Wednesday, Jan. 19. The virtual event is from noon to 3 p.m. EST. Register:

What are micro-pathways? Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage.

About Education Design Lab: The Lab is a national nonprofit that co-designs, prototypes, and tests education-to-workforce models through a human-centered design process focused on understanding learners’ experiences, addressing equity gaps in higher education, and connecting new majority learners to economic mobility. The Community College Growth Engine Fund, led by Dr. Lisa Larson, is a design accelerator set up just before the pandemic to help community colleges lean into a future role as regional talent agents. We want to thank the Charles Koch Foundation,, and the Walton Family Foundation for their early investment as well as the Arizona Community Foundation, Jeffrey H. and Shari L. Aronson Family Foundation, Ascendium Education Group, The Beacon Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Citizens, deLaski Family Foundation, Garcia Foundation, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, Robin Hood Foundation, and the ZOMA Foundation. This brief does not reflect the position or opinions of investor partners.

Download the brief:

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