College students are more likely to complete a degree in a timely fashion if they choose a program and develop an academic plan early on, have a clear road map of the courses they need to take to complete a credential, and receive guidance and support to help them stay on the path. Guided pathways integrate these and other evidence-based reforms with the goal of ensuring that they become part of every student’s college experience.
The pathways model is an integrated, institution-wide approach to student success based on intentionally designed, clear, coherent, and structured educational experiences, informed by available evidence, that guide each student effectively and efficiently from her/his point of entry through to attainment of high-quality postsecondary credentials and careers with value in the labor market.
What Is the Pathways Model? (posted 4/5/2018)
This two-page document describes the guided pathways model. (American Association of Community Colleges and Community College Research Center)
The Movement Toward Pathways (posted 4/5/2018)
This document offers a brief history of the community college field’s movement toward guided pathways as an approach to increasing college completion and equity in student outcomes at scale. (American Association of Community Colleges and Community College Research Center)
Implementing Guided Pathways: Early Insights from the AACC Pathways Colleges (full report) (posted 4/5/2018)
Based on research with the 30 AACC pathways colleges, this report provides insight into how colleges are planning and implementing guided pathways reforms. (Community College Research Center)
Implementing Guided Pathways: Early Insights from the AACC Pathways Colleges (executive summary) (posted 4/5/2018)
This is the executive summary of the full report described above. (Community College Research Center)
PRACTITIONER, PRESIDENT, AND PARTNER PERSPECTIVES
Kay McClenney, Senior Advisor to the President & CEO, AACC, Pathways Partner (posted 4/5/2018)
What is the case for guided pathways? An incredibly important question and every single college needs to come up with a credible response to the question, “Why should we do pathways?” It begins with data across community colleges and individual institutions that show that despite our hard work with good will over a decade and a half of community college reform, our persistence, completion, and transfer rates are still unacceptably low. We’ve made some progress; it’s tiny increments. But what people have discovered are the upper limits of how far you can go when what you have is a collection of discrete strategies or interventions that don’t work together, aren’t integrated into a coherent experience for students, and are almost never scaled to serve all students. But then colleges discover that there are real, compelling arguments when they look at particular pieces of data. For example, I’ll give two examples of data points that are pretty compelling. One of them is that when you ask colleges to calculate the average number of credits earned, and I’m going to say college-level credits earned not developmental education, credits earned by associate degree graduates from their institution, then you get the startling information and we don’t have a national average because most people don’t look at these data. But in the colleges that we have looked at the data for a 60-credit associate degree are typically in the range between 85 and 95 credits earned by associate degree graduates. And we see colleges where that average number is as high as 104, 110 credits earned. The argument when you see those data is that there’s nothing okay about it, there is nothing all right about a student earning 93 credits, which is the average in Texas, to obtain an associate degree. That’s student time and money and opportunity cost and lost wages. That is taxpayer money, and that is parent money and time. And that’s also, and importantly, loss of Pell Grant eligibility so that even if they transfer they’re not going to have enough Pell Grant funding left to enable them to complete a baccalaureate. So that’s a very compelling statistic for faculty. The second one is related, and it is looking across American higher education, both community colleges and universities, the most common outcome of American higher education is accumulation of credits and debt but no credential. Not okay.
Gretchen Schmidt, Executive Director, AACC Pathways Project, Pathways Partner (posted 4/5/2018)
If you look at institutions, more competitive institutions, like four-year competitive institutions, they have structure. They have supports. They have clear paths for students, students know what to take from the moment they get through the institution to the moment that they graduate and what that degree means in the marketplace. And that is for students who have the highest amount of social capital and the ability to pay for competitive-admission, highly selective institutions. So we have allowed our students at community colleges to wander around and accumulate credit without an end goal or a structured pathway through the institution with a credential — an idea of what that credential means at completion for the marketplace. So for me, it is about creating opportunities and a case for students that have the least amount of social capital to be able to complete a degree and what that means for them and for their families.
Davis Jenkins, Senior Scholar, Community College Research Center, Pathways Partner (posted 4/5/2018)
In the first three terms, you lose 40 to 50 percent of the students. And actually, even before that, from let’s say students considering going and the first day of class, you’ll lose anywhere between 20 and 30 percent of those students. So you’re just hemorrhaging students. You shouldn’t worry about the guided pathways idea. It’s moving from a model where we’re attracting students by offering a lot of choices of courses at low cost to we’re attracting and retaining students by offering programs that clearly lead to where students want, which is advancement in the labor market and advancement to — efficient advancement with no excess credits to majors in bachelor’s degree programs in a timely and affordable way.
Ed Bowling, Executive Director, Completion by Design - North Carolina, Pathways Coach (posted 4/5/2018)
The reality is that guided pathways isn’t a bunch of new stuff. It’s taking the things that colleges have been doing all along and giving a very specific sort of looking at it through a very specific lens. And that lens is credit accumulation and completion of their programs. So every college talks about advising. Every college talks about program review or streamlining their programs. Everyone talks about onboarding, and they talk about orientation and first-year experience. We have all of those activities going on, but traditionally, each of those activities kind of acted like a little silo. They were really detached from all the other activities going on. So I think what we have with the pathways project is an attempt to take all of those things that we’re already doing, that we’re already talking about, that we already have carved out space for, and looking at those through this lens of integration, sort of this holistic fabric, this continuum that takes the — that starts with the student when they first come through our doors all the way through to completion at our college and then on into the workforce or to their four-year institution. So it’s all the same stuff, it’s just looking at that stuff in a different way and trying to find a way to make it a seamless — seamless set of events.