For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeff Wakefield, (802) 578-8830,

CFES Brilliant Pathways to Offer Free Turnkey College Readiness Program to 20 Schools in Northern New York, Vermont
Addresses Widening College Gap Between Rural, Urban Students 

It’s well known that low-income students in urban schools face significant challenges in attending college. But rural students go to college and remain there at even lower rates than their urban counterparts.  

A new initiative, the North Country Brilliant Pathways Program, aims to address this underrecognized gap for students at 20 elementary, middle and high schools in rural Vermont and northeastern New York by providing them with a multi-faceted, comprehensive college readiness program.   

The program is free of cost, but each school needs to apply to be part of it. (application and program details)

“Economic, cultural and demographic issues are combining to rob young people in rural communities of the future they deserve,” said Rick Dalton, president of CFES Brilliant Pathways, the Essex, N.Y.-based college readiness non-profit that developed the program.  “This new initiative is designed to level the playing field for a group of schools in New York and Vermont and serve as a model that could be adopted by schools nationwide,” he said.  

The new program will offer a variety of components that Dalton estimates will have a total value of $1.5 million for the 20 schools. They include the following (see Program Profile for more details): 

  • A dedicated professional program director for each school who will make in-person and virtual visits throughout the year and guide the development of college and career plans.
  • Myriad professional development and enrichment opportunities for educators, students and families, such as monthly college- and career-readiness advisor trainings certified by the University of Vermont. 
  • A variety of digital resources, including partnerships and networking opportunities with 200 colleges/universities and 230 businesses and corporations. 
  • Opportunities for networking, collaboration, and recognition, including becoming a nationally recognized School of Distinction.
  • A partnership with an urban school to promote cultural exchange and connection and prepare students to navigate a diverse world. 

The program is a distillation of strategies CFES Brilliant Pathways has developed over its history. These strategies are laid out in detail in a new book written by Dalton, Rural Pathways to College and Career (Routledge, April 2021). 

While rural students attend college at only slightly lower rates than urban students (59% vs 61%), retention rates are much lower. Just 29% of rural Americans aged 18-24 are enrolled in colleges and universities, compared to 42% of all Americans in that age range.  The pandemic has worsened the problem. FAFSA completions, a sign of intent to go to college, dropped 10% nationally this year and 15% in rural areas. 

Fully two-thirds of all jobs and 80 percent of all jobs that pay a median of $65,000 or more require postsecondary education, according to research by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.