Guided pathways construction aims for higher student success

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

Since the California Community College’s Board of Governors approved the Guided Pathways Grant Program in July, Contra Costa College has begun to examine its course offerings in preparation for the move to a more structured format.

The allocation formula, which granted CCC $750,000 over a five-year period, will help establish and integrate guided pathways into the existing course curriculum in conjunction with the structured framework.

“We are only at the initial stage of this five-year project,” CCC Academic Senate President Beth Goehring said. “There have been many meetings with student services, management and faculty that have created approximately 15 courses and program maps.”

The board-based design of guided pathways is a collaboration and adaption of the national American Association of Community Colleges pathways model. Aimed at increasing the number of students earning community college certificates and degrees, guided pathways helps clarify paths for student end goals, helps student select a program and stay on path to ensure quality learning.

“It will take a lot of collaboration with the entire campus to make it happen,” she said. “We can see the benefits for our students.” During October and November, a preliminary survey of CCC faculty, staff and students was conducted on how to approach grouping majors.

Biology professor Katie Krolikowski, who is the faculty lead on the project, said the initial process was to get a common understanding
of guided pathways on campus.

“We made a lot of progress to include and get everyone involved,” she said. “It’s a place to get us all talking in the right direction, but the devil’s in the details.” Krolikowski said that guided pathways are best established at community colleges in California where faculty and staff work together.

This includes the 20 participating community colleges chosen in early 2017 to implement the model for all incoming student by 2019. “Sometimes teachers don’t communicate well and this is somewhat true at CCC,” she said. “We like and respect each other and with this project we have to work very closely.”

A team of five to six faculty meet all last semester, Krolikowski said, to construct parts of the guide pathway structure, such as majors, the order classes should be taken and curriculum pathways.

“Our faculty is really on board to make it as successful for students as possible and I’m happy about that,” she said. “Especially with Mojdeh’s (former CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh) involvement. She wants to make sure all the information is being shared throughout the college campus.”

Krolikowski said one of the biggest challenges is for faculty to find time to dedicate to the project. But because of the support from department chairs, progress has made headway.

“We have 16 to 19 out of the 44 programs reviewed. That’s about 40 percent of programs with established pathways,” she said. “For the first draft we have pathways from departments across the campus. We’ll probably end up grouping majors into five different categories.”

Although guided pathways gained support, the initial proposal received negative criticism as faculty and staff felt lifelong
learners were excluded from the educational experience.

“Faculty want to leave space for the lifelong learners and personal developers on campus,” Krolikowski said. “We are sympathetic
to supporting the needs of these students and have to advocate at the state level for leverage.”

CCC Associated Student Union President Alexander Walker-Griffin said the guided pathways model pushes to get students through the community college system faster.

“This could potentially lower the number of students who get lost in the system and eventually drop out because they fell
off track or had a difficult time trying to understand what classes they needed to take in order to get out of school as soon as they
can,” he said. “I like that it targets underserved students, which historically have had the hardest time getting out of the system.”

The state Board of Governors will distribute the funds with an outlined criteria that includes 10 percent of the total funds toward assistance and programmatic support, 35 percent based on the Full Time Equivalent Student and 45 percent based on the number of students receiving federal pell grant.

“All 114 community colleges are different, so we need to work to find a better technique to get colleges to have higher graduation
rates that won’t (adversely) impact their funding,” Walker-Griffin said.