Wraparound support for any student across the country? Yes, please.

By Chris Dowling, Development Director at PelotonU

“Hey mom, I’m on a call — can you take the little ones?” Jeri calls to her mom while on Zoom with me, as her grandkids run in the background. Jeri is one of the growing number of students across the country supported by both PelotonU and local social service organizations. I have the privilege of hearing Jeri’s story from her home, about her resilience through college and the example she’s setting for her family to never give up.

Jeri is persistent in getting her degree, despite a higher education system that’s stacked against her as she tries to balance work, childcare, and college. She represents the 74% of students over 25, whose primary responsibilities don’t fit within an antiquated higher education system.

“I had gone to college before, right after high school, but I couldn’t stay, between juggling work and taking care of the kids,” Jeri explains.

The fallout of this mismatch means students like Jeri face less than a 10% chance of ever graduating — unless the system is changed.

Long after that first college attempt, Jeri leaned on a local nonprofit in Cincinnati called CityLink, which provides coordinated social services personalized for each client, such as employment resources, career training, and financial counseling.

“A mentor told me about CityLink and all the job certifications I could get. They helped me earn my IT certification for free and I was able to change jobs. I was excited that they also offered services like childcare, interview clothes, and career guidance. They’ve stood by me for years in so many different ways.”

CityLink is one of the growing number of national organizations who refer students to PelotonU’s virtual coaching program. While the pandemic brought immense hardship for many students, it also gave us the opportunity to coach students in a fully virtual context, which proved to be better than place-based support. Now, students can virtually pursue a degree with PelotonU while receiving wraparound support from partner organizations like CityLink.

PelotonU’s affordable degree plans leverage competency-based education (CBE), allowing Jeri to make sequential progress through a series of projects, rather than tackle a bundle of tests and papers due all at once. Because tuition is covered by a Pell Grant, Jeri is also on track to graduate debt-free.

“It sounded too good to be true. I was thrilled about the possibility of college without debt. And I was so ready for a change. I felt like I already did everything in my career to advance, and I knew it was time to have the degree to get me to the next level.”

Jeri plans to finish her AA and then advance to her BA, and eventually work in healthcare management. With PelotonU, Jeri has a great chance of beating the average. AA earners average 1.2 years to degree completion through PelotonU, compared to 5 years nationally for part-time students. 71% of BA earners are on track to graduate in six years, compared to only 14% for part-time students elsewhere.

For most PelotonU students, though, it’s about more than a diploma or a paycheck. “I also got my daughter, Shayla to join PelotonU. To see the family growing, all of us taking the next step, it’s so exciting. We actually share the same coach at PelotonU, which is really special.”

At the heart of the program are seven college completion coaches, who bring 53 years of combined higher education experience to their individualized coaching of students. Jeri’s PelotonU Coach, Adria, helps her work through the inevitable challenges that Jeri and her peers face.

“Between kids, work, and school, there have been times when it’s been too much. Like a lot of folks, I struggle to reach out when I need help. But Adria was fighting for me and believing in me more than I believed in myself at times. When I felt like giving up, I knew I couldn’t let down the PelotonU team or my family.” Jeri states with tears in her eyes.

“I’m in a much better place now, and I feel like I can tell anyone about PelotonU. I know people think “It can’t be that great” just like I did. And I say ‘It can be, And it is.”

For details about how organizations can partner with PelotonU, visit the partnership page on our website.

PelotonU provides working students a personalized pathway to graduate from college on-time and debt-free.