Clearing the path

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A new cohort of colleges in Washington will work to implement Guided Pathways.

The Pathways movement is growing. Five Washington community colleges have been tapped to implement Guided Pathways in the state: Clover Park Technical College, Lower Columbia College, Renton Technical College, Spokane Falls Community College and Tacoma Community College.

The colleges will receive $500,000 from College Spark for this work. That amount is being matched by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).

The four essential practices of a Guided Pathways model are to:

  1. Clarify the path for students
  2. Help students choose and enter a path
  3. Help students stay on the path
  4. Ensure that students are learning

Success starts with getting faculty and staff engaged. From there, the colleges will work to develop meta majors, which are broad fields of interest, such as business, education or allied health. “Designed with the end (college completion) in mind, and using student’s interests as a starting point, meta-majors provide structure and narrow choices to support student success,” says the author of a 2016 Jobs for the Future report.

Implementing Guided Pathways also involves developing enhanced intake and advising practices, accelerated remediation and multiple math pathways to better suit different types of intended careers.

“We’re especially pleased with this model’s potential to close the equity gap for student groups that have historically completed their programs at lower rates, including low-income students,” Tacoma Community College Executive Vice President Tod Treat said in a release. “This is important work, and we’re excited to see it translate into increased student success.”

The colleges won’t be doing this work on their own, though. SBCTC will provide technical assistance and coaches and facilitate opportunities for the colleges to learn from other Guided Pathways colleges and experts in the field of institutional change management.

For  some, the work has already begun. At Renton Technical College (RTC) programs and degrees have been grouped into seven areas of study to make it easier for students to find the best career fit for them and then take classes in the best sequence to complete their education sooner. The areas of study are advanced manufacturing, business management, college and career pathways, culinary arts, health and human services, information technology and transportation technology.

“Ensuring that all our students succeed is our highest priority, and Guided Pathways is another way to encourage that success,” RTC President Kevin McCarthy said. “RTC has already begun this important work, and this funding will allow us to fully implement our initiative.”

The five colleges are the second Guided Pathways cohort in Washington. Everett Community College, Peninsula College, Pierce College, South Puget Sound Community College and South Seattle College were previously awarded College Spark grants for the initiative. South Seattle and Pierce Colleges also participate in the American Association of Community Colleges’ Pathways Project.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.