Curriculum supports academic specificity

Easing achievement of degree

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

The guided pathways program has been implemented at Contra Costa College to ensure all students are equally supported in swiftly reaching their educational goals.

Dean of Workforce and Economic Development Kelly Schelin said, “What we mean by guided pathways is basically a way of making it uber clear to students what classes they should take and in what order — to help them reach their career and educational goals.”

The program will focus on increasing the number of students who earn a certificate of achievement or degree at a community college.

Schelin said the goal is to have a few programs completed this year and by next month determine which programs will pilot guided pathways.

Guided pathways information packets will be given to students for their respective majors so that they know what classes will help them graduate.

If they have a specific career goal, transfer goal or educational goal, it will outline which classes are most likely to help them reach those goals, Schelin said.

Academic Senate President Beth Goehring said each guided pathway has to be appropriate for the students and where they want to transfer.

As part of guided pathways, meta-majors will be created to help students narrow their choice of which education plan best suits their specific goals while at community college.

Goehring said a meta-major is a packet of courses for majors that have a similar focus such as nursing and physician assistant both under the health science meta-major.

“It’s more like we are taking a lot of similar majors and we are grouping them together like clusters and letting people decide what they want to take.”

Regular majors will remain an option for those who decide to continue their educational path without using a guided pathway, but having meta-majors available for students will help start an educational plan as they begin taking courses.

Schelin said, “Typically, students who face the most barriers to success are, say, first-generation college students. First-generation college students are less likely to come to college knowing exactly what he or she wants to be because they probably haven’t been having those conversations about what they want to do in college.”

Guided pathways will help prepare students that come from all backgrounds.

“Research shows that students of color, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and first-generation college students take more courses they don’t really need, so by making it clear, guided pathways will help those populations more and the will contribute to having more equitable access to education,” Schelin said.

The Council on Access and Retention (CAR) is a group of college administration and faculty who are helping design the pathways and decide how to implement them at a college.

Goehring said, “We are a two-year institution, which means students should be completing their degrees in two years, but for a lot of students that just doesn’t happen.”

Based on district research, it takes up to six years for a student to graduate from a community college because often times, while going to community college, students have other responsibilities like tending to their families or work.

CCC’s guided pathways model is similar to The Foundation of California Community Colleges’ California Guided Pathway Project, which selected 20 community colleges in California to design and implement structured academic and career pathways for students by 2019.

Schelin said, “We are looking at the same research as the state Chancellor’s Office and research shows that students are more likely to be successful if it is very clear to them what courses they have to take.”

Dean of Enrollment Dennis Franco said, “They (guided pathways) are meant to illuminate the way for students to reach completion of their goals.”

Franco said guided pathways helps students identify actions they need to take throughout their college experience in order to be successful.

Goehring said, “When you do a guided pathway, in my vision, you are not only arranging the students two years of work and general requirements.”

Students will also be able to set up counseling appointments, apply for scholarships and transfer.

As of now, it has yet to be decided if the program will focus on freshmen or if it will be for every CCC student.

“This program is trying to give all the services that are needed to help everybody succeed at the same level,” Goehring said. “The traditional way we’ve done things is we let students come in and then they bounce around with their classes. These guided pathways will help students focus. It is going to have an impact.”

Shelin said at this stage of the planning it is hard to know the budget for the program, but most of the infrastructure counselors and retention specialists necessary for guided pathways are already in place.

Schelin said counselors will be involved in designing the pathways because they know which courses transfer into institutions.

“Funding is not an issue. A lack of funds is not going to hold us back,” Shelin said,

Goehring said she anticipates trying to get something established by the end of the semester.