Back on Track Designs

Back on Track Designs

Reengaging Opportunity Youth

Reengaging youth and young adults who are off track to graduation, or disconnected from both education and work, and putting them on a path to postsecondary credentials.

Lili Allen
Associate Vice President, Reconnection Strategies and Designs
617.728.4446 x105


Jobs for the Future and our partners empower these young adults to find college and career pathways that fit their interests and needs.

JFF youth education experts partner with school districts, community colleges, community-based organizations, and national youth-serving networks to develop and expand pathways to high school and postsecondary credentials with value in the labor market.

Despite the high aspiration these young people have for their futures, they have been unable to progress in postsecondary education or secure steady jobs. This disconnection from school and work as a young adult tends to have ripple effects throughout a lifetime, with enormous impacts on society. We refer to this group as “opportunity youth” to call attention to the high economic and social value of addressing their needs, as well as their own desires for education and economic opportunities. The estimated lifetime economic consequence of a single off-track 20-year-old is $235,680. A report calculates the total fiscal and social burden of today’s off-track youth to be $6.1 trillion over their lifetimes.

Our Back on Track Through College model and services help reengage and advance off-track youth in communities across the country.

The Back on Track Through College Model
  • Enriched Preparation integrates high-quality college- and career-ready instruction with strong academic and social supports.
  • Postsecondary Bridging builds college/career-ready skills and provides informed transition counseling.
  • First-year Supports offers appropriate supports in the first year to ensure postsecondary persistence and success.

Back on Track helps prepare low-income young people who are out of school or off track to graduation for college success. JFF youth education experts partner with school districts, community colleges, community-based organizations, and national youth-serving networks to develop and expand programs for reengaging and advancing this large and growing population.

Jobs for the Future’s Back on Track model has taken hold in communities across the country. 

  • Communities ranging from Pharr, Texas and Denver to Chicago and Philadelphia have incorporated Back on Track features into their expectations for all schools serving off-track and out-of-school youth. 
  • The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions has adopted Back on Track as the model to drive the development of pathways to postsecondary credentials in 20 communities where cross-sector collaboratives have committed to improve outcomes for opportunity youth. 
  • Our partners in the Postsecondary Success Initiative, YouthBuildUSA, the Conservation Corps, and the National Youth Employment Coalition are spreading Back on Track practices in their affiliated schools and programs across the country.

And we are seeing early indicators of success of the model in improved student outcomes.

  • More than 1,000 former dropouts have graduated from the College, Career & Technology Academy in Pharr, Texas, since it opened with Back on Track’s help in 2007. Since then, the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District’s graduation rate has risen from 62 to 88 percent.
  • 80 percent of students in the Postsecondary Success Initiative earned a diploma or GED. In addition, over half of these youth went on to a postsecondary program, and 70 percent completed one semester or more of postsecondary education.
  • Back on Track Designs Video

    Back on Track Designs Video

    Watch a video featuring students about Back on Track's work in action!

    Special thanks to: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Open Society Foundations, New Profit Inc., YouthBuild USA, National Youth Employment Coalition, the Corps Network, and Brandeis University.

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  • Crossing the Divide

    Crossing the Divide: An Emerging Typology of Postsecondary Bridging for Opportunity Youth

    Through JFF's work with communities around the country on the Back on Track model, postsecondary bridging strategies have emerged as a particularly critical and especially replicable component of programming for vulnerable.

    This issue brief offers a typology of evidence-informed bridge programming, drawing on frontrunner programs that have designed their strategies specifically for this population and that have attained early indicators of success. We hope this typology will inform the design and support the scale of bridging programs that provide a critical leg up for opportunity youth to earn the postsecondary credentials that are so essential to thriving in today’s economy.

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  • Back on Track Cost Calculator

    Back on Track Cost Calculator

    JFF developed the Back on Track Cost Calculator to help schools and programs put in place the Back on Track Through College diploma-granting or GED model. The calculator is helpful for those starting a new program or expanding an existing program to incorporate additional phases.
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