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Pathways Project Helps CCs Build Guided Academic, Career Pathways

A mix of community colleges in 17 states are participating in a new national project to help them create academic and career pathways at a scale to meet the needs of all of their students.

The initiative is being led by the American Association of Community Colleges and funded by a $5.2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Other participants include Achieving the Dream, the Center for Community College Student Engagement and the Community College Research Center, among other organizations.

Those organizations are designing and delivering a series of six pathways seminars, each focused on various aspects of developing a guided pathway model for community colleges, such as "leadership for transformation change" and "redesigning student intake systems and ongoing academic and non-academic supports." Those two-day "institutes" will be delivered in 2016 and 2017.

The selected colleges will be the first to participate in the pathways institute series and will work with expert coaches at the institutes. In addition, the participating colleges will also contribute to learning both across the initiative and more broadly, across the community college field. Their work will extend through spring 2018.

The guided pathways model is built on three principles:

  • A college's program redesigns must pay attention to the entire student experience, not just one segment of it;
  • A guided pathways redesign isn't the latest in a long line of reforms, but rather an approach that helps unify a variety of reforms around the goal of helping students choose, enter and complete a program of study aligned with his or her goals for employment and further education; and
  • The redesign process starts with student career and academic goals and "backward maps" programs and supports to ensure that students are prepared to thrive at the next level.

Preliminary evidence shows good outcomes for students in those schools that have implemented guided pathways practices at scale, including the City Colleges of Chicago and the City University of New York's Guttman Community College. The new project will pursue similar transformations at 30 schools, including Alamo Colleges in Texas, Bakersfield College in California and Broward College in Florida.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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