Rio Grande Valle 2007
Co-Founder and COO, PelotonU
How are you making an impact for kids, the community, or the network?
I have the honor of co-leading PelotonU, a hybrid college based here in Austin designed for post-traditional students to earn a degree on time and with little-to-no debt. One of the biggest things that surprised me as I learned more and more about the “through college” aspirations for my former high school students was 1) just how low most college’s graduation rates were – usually around 25%! and 2) just how many college students today are actually older than 24, commuting, going part-time, working 30+ hours, or raising a child — nearly 75%! With those two things in mind, my co-founder Hudson Baird and I set out to come up with another option; we co-designed with our students to ensure we were actually building for their needs, which is a practice we still use today as we grow and change. We partner with competency-based degree programs to ensure post-traditional students have the flexibility they need to make school fit around their lives, and then our expert coaches provide emotional, logistical, and academic guidance to ensure our students have the support they want. In Austin, we’ve served over 350 students and helped them earn 110 associate and bachelor’s degrees. 86% are students of color and 82% will be the first in their family to graduate from college; 67% are woman-identifying and the average age when they join PelotonU is 26. Even throughout COVID, we were able to maintain a 75% persistence rate, which we define a little differently: of all the students who have ever enrolled with us, how many have graduated or are still active? We were also the first hybrid college (hybridcollege.org) and alongside peers in Boston (Duet) and Los Angeles (Da Vinci Extension), we’ve grown the field to 15 hybrid colleges serving over 3,000 students and 700 degrees earned around the country. These are students right out of high schools like LBJ, Austin Achieve, and Bowie as well as working adults in our public works department, at our insurance companies, and caring for our children at daycare.
What do you hope to be true for Austin kids, community, and/or the alumni network 10 years from now?
The words “one day…” still ring true, but they’ve evolved: my hope is that one day, every student has access to an education pathway that meets her needs and guides her on the journey to agency and flourishing — whatever that looks like for her.
Read more about Sarah and PelotonU here.