Successful regional pathway program to expand

New data compiled by La Trobe University reveals students enrolled in the philanthropy-backed Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton Bradford Pathways program were over four times more likely to attend tertiary education than the average participation rate in each catchment.

The Gillespie Family Foundation, whose generous philanthropy helped establish the Bradford Shepparton Pathways program in 2019, has committed a further $1 million to continue the program in Shepparton, announced on Friday (26 May) at a community roundtable event chaired by La Trobe Chancellor John Brumby AO in Albury-Wodonga.

The Albury-Wodonga and Bradford Shepparton Pathways Programs aim to raise aspirations and increase educational engagement in further and higher education for senior school students in partner schools. The program provides academic and learning support, including a mentor program with local La Trobe University students.

The $1 million gift from the Gillespie Family Foundation is contingent on La Trobe raising matched philanthropic funding.

The University has made a $2 million funding commitment to continue the Pathways program in Albury-Wodonga and also expand the program to Mildura and Bendigo. Further philanthropic funding is required to achieve the goal of increasing higher education participation in regional Victoria.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said the Gillespie Family Foundation’s generosity was making a real and lasting difference to the lives of young regional Victorians.

“Access to higher education is not only life-changing for the individual and their future career, but it also has a ripple effect for their families and the broader community, bolstering the region’s skilled workforce,” Professor Dewar said.

“We know that in 2022, around 70 per cent of Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton students completing our Pathways program are on track to attend university, with 608 students having already entered tertiary education since the program launched.”

The Pathways program was piloted in Albury-Wodonga in 2017 before expanding to Shepparton, thanks to a philanthropic donation in 2019 from The Gillespie Family Foundation of $250,000.

Roger Gillespie OAM, a La Trobe University alumnus, said that when he discovered Shepparton – his mother’s hometown - had some of the lowest rates of higher education attainment in the country, he knew he had to do something.

“There were so many bright young people in regional areas of Victoria who didn’t think university was for them – and I knew we had to change that narrative,” Roger Gillespie said.

“It’s all about empowering people to pursue their passions and aspire to bigger things – the more we can support school students to realise they can go further in life, the bigger the difference they can make in the future.”

The University is bringing together community members, including school principals, government representatives, business and industry leaders in Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton, to discuss participation in higher education in regional areas, raise awareness of benefits of higher education to the local community and garner additional support for the program.


Participation and completion rates for Albury-Wodonga and Bradford Shepparton Pathways programs

  • Since 2019, 331 Albury-Wodonga students and 277 Shepparton students have completed the program.
  • Data from the 2022 programs shows 71 per cent of Albury-Wodonga students in the program are on track to attend university, as were 66 percent of Shepparton participants.
  • Census data shows that in 2021, 485 of 3791 (12.9 per cent) Albury-Wodonga catchment residents aged 19 to 21 attended university or other higher education, not including TAFE or private training providers.
  • In the Shepparton catchment 633 of 4162 (15.2 per cent) of residents aged 19 to 21 attended university or other higher education, not including TAFE or private training providers.
  • Comparable data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 50 percent of 19 to 21-year olds in 2021 in Greater Melbourne were attending university or other higher education.

Media: Courtney Carthy-O'Neill, +61 487 448 793