The following article was originally published by Saint Albans Messenger on June 2, 2021.

ESSEX, N.Y. — Enosburg Falls High School is one of 20 in Vermont and New York that will receive funding for a college readiness program.

CFES Brilliant Pathways, a college and career-readiness nonprofit based in Essex, New York, has chosen 20 rural schools for its newly launched North Country Brilliant Pathways program. Seventy-two schools applied for the program, which was announced in April.

The initiative, which has a value of $1.5 million, will provide schools with a multi-faceted, comprehensive college readiness program that will put more of their students on a path to college. Currently, a lower percentage of rural students attend college compared with their urban and suburban counterparts, and they drop out at far higher rates, according to company officials.

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, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 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.

“I’m very pleased to see such a robust response from interested schools,” said Scott Thomas, dean of UVM’s College of Education, who also serves on the North Country board. “Based on my experience working with CFES, the program will make a real difference for these schools.”

The North Country Brilliant Pathways program is a distillation of strategies CFES has developed over its 30-year history.