Gateway Courses:  The Key to College Success

Starting college is an exciting time full of possibilities and opportunities. It is also a critical time when students need to establish a solid foundation to ensure success throughout their academic journey.  The gateway course is the first college-level course a student takes in a subject area, and passing gateway courses in math and English is the first academic milestone on the path to a degree.

In Kentucky, 29303 first-time students enrolled in a KY public institution in the fall of 2020.  By May 2021, only 5% of students completed gateway courses in math and English.  However, institutions that are “student-ready” and provide the necessary support for all students admitted to their programs have higher success rates.  Therefore, improving gateway course success and closing equity gaps are essential to reaching Kentucky’s educational attainment goal of 60% of the population with a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030.

Corequisite models are the Kentucky standard for underprepared students. Students jump into college-level coursework while also receiving structured academic support.  This approach has led to significant gains in gateway course completion, especially for students of color and adult learners.

The placement of students and effective pedagogy are also critical factors in gateway course success.  Institutions that assess students using multiple measures, including high school coursework, high school GPA, and non-cognitive factors, enroll more students in gateway math and English.  Culturally responsive teaching and just-in-time teaching approaches have also proven effective.Pathways that connect gateway course success to overall student success strategies are also essential.  Choosing a major and career path early, feeling belonging on campus, and having support for basic needs can all be barriers to success in gateway courses.  Early momentum is key to college success, and institutions must provide the necessary support to ensure all students can succeed.

Gateway Course for Student Success
Source: Kentucky Student Success Collaborative

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