Underserved students thrive with university’s new format

By Ronald Bethke
March 15th, 2016


A Chicago University is reaching out to underserved students with an affordable new program powered by adaptive technology.

A new collaboration between Carnegie Mellon’s learning company Acrobatiq and National Louis University has created a new, innovative undergraduate program aimed at expanding access to underserved learners and improving student achievement through adaptive-powered, competency-based learning.

The Harrison Professional Pathways Program at National Louis University, the adaptive learning platform, content library and professional services of Acrobatiq, aims to deliver a competency-centric blended learning program to bridge the achievement gap for underserved learners in the Chicago area.

According to a 2014 White House report, half of all people from high-income families earn a bachelor’s degree by age 25, while just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do. As such, the program reaches out to many first-time and first-generation college students who often do not complete their bachelor’s degree due to challenges faced outside of the classroom (e.g. work and family responsibilities, poor preparation, or inadequate academic advising and support).

The Harrison Professional Pathways Program is a two-year pathway that leads to a four-year degree. Students can choose a general studies, education or business pathway for their first two years, which are sequenced, before transitioning into existing bachelor’s programs in many different majors and formats for their junior and senior years.

One of the key ways the program broadens access is by only requiring a 2.0 GPA to apply, which is a good deal lower than most programs.

This is also feasible for many students because the program only costs $10,000 per year–less than the average cost of a bachelor’s degree program in Illinois and one of the most affordable in the state. National Louis is able to provide the low cost thanks to a flexible online/on-campus hybrid model.

“Our vision for the program and the need for the program came out of reality, and out of what’s happening in society today,” said Aarti Dhupelia, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at National Louis University. “Adults need postsecondary education to be successful in today’s economy, but many don’t have it. There’s a huge gap that needs to be filled. We at NLU saw it as a moral and economic imperative for society to reach students with potential…and directly address research on reasons those students are not getting through college.”

(Next page: The program’s blended learning experience)

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