Program overview

  • Program to ease the transition to postsecondary education or job training: Back on Track is a postsecondary student success program administered by Jobs for the Future (JFF) that enrolls young adults who have completed or are nearing completion (i.e., in their final year) of high school. The goal of the program is to increase enrollment in postsecondary education or job-training programs.

  • Implemented by service delivery partners with support from JFF: Back on Track can be implemented by a range of service delivery partners, including high schools and alternative schools, university systems, workforce development organizations, and child welfare agencies. JFF supports these partners in strategic assessment and planning, program design and implementation, research and development, and evaluation.

  • Bridging the gap to postsecondary opportunities: Back on Track consists of two phases: postsecondary bridging and first-year support. As part of postsecondary bridging, students work with facilitators either in a one-on-one, small group, or whole class format. Facilitators assist students as they explore career pathways and academic fields of study; identify and apply for postsecondary education or job training programs; build college, career, and academic skills; and navigate the admissions and financial aid process.

  • Supporting students through their first postsecondary year: The second phase of the Back on Track program is first-year support, which aims to help students persist through their first year of postsecondary education or advanced training. During this period, Back on Track provides student success programming, which includes staff checking in regularly with students either in groups or one-on-one to offer help selecting a course of study, registering for classes, and understanding and meeting requirements for graduation.

Two studies with less rigorous design provide some evidence for Back on Track as a strategy for improving postsecondary outcomes in young adults.

  • A 2019 quasi-experimental study found that, over a five year follow-up period, Back on track participants were 15 percentage points more likely to have earned a postsecondary credential than members of the comparison group. Additionally, participants enrolled in an average of 1.7 times more semesters of postsecondary education than members of the comparison group.

  • A 2019 program evaluation found that, over an 18-month follow-up period, 68 percent of program participants enrolled in a postsecondary education program. Of this group, 40 percent completed the first year of their postsecondary program.

Note: this content is currently under review.

  • Build a team of community leaders and customize the program model: Back on Track has a flexible core structure to allow each service delivery partner to customize the program model to best fit their community and student population. In order to make these adaptations, service delivery partners should establish an advisory team of community leaders including employers, youth program leaders, community-based organizations, schools, and postsecondary institutions to offer input and guidance on program development.

  • Select program delivery ratios intentionally: Both phases of Back on Track can be delivered in one-on-one, small group, or large classroom settings. Service delivery partners should consider both the population of students served and the capacity of facilitators when determining ratios for program delivery. A one-on-one structure might be more appropriate for certain student populations, like those with a history of trauma or more remedial academic needs. A large classroom format, on the other hand, allows a program to serve more students but may be more appropriate for those who need less intensive support.

  • Respond to workforce needs: Since the goal of Back on Track is to prepare students to enter the workforce, it is essential that the program adapt over time as the most in-demand skills, fastest growing careers, and most promising fields shift. Service delivery providers should maintain connections with business leaders to get regular feedback and input on the skills emphasized in postsecondary bridging lessons and should regularly assess both national and local workforce trends.

  • Support the whole student: Factors outside of the classroom affect a student’s academic success and behavior in school. As such, Back on Track programs should develop relationships with social service providers, which can provide students with needed support services. When facilitators identify challenges that a student is facing, they can then connect the student to resources such as mental health counseling, health care, housing, or nutrition assistance in an effort to ensure that they are able to focus on their academic responsibilities.