• Description

Many students arrive at community college without clear goals for college and their careers. They receive little guidance prior to matriculation, do not meet with advisors, and/or accumulate many course credits that do not count toward their eventual program of study. Some even drop out of college before selecting a program.

To address these kinds of issues and to help students reach their college completion goals, some community colleges are creating structured pathways that allow students to explore their education and career options while also making progress toward a credential.

This report, produced by the Completion by Design initiative at WestEd, outlines some of the major issues that colleges are discussing or experimenting with that are related to the creation of more structured student pathways, including:

  • Mandating intake processes that provide education and career counseling, inform students about programs that are related to their interests, and help students explore and develop education goals, career goals, and a degree plan
  • Balancing flexibility and prescription in student selection of courses and majors
  • Defining clear instructional programs enabling students to complete a program as quickly as possible
  • Providing proactive and ongoing education and career advising, supports, and planning across each stage of student progress
  • Increasing program alignment with employment and transfer opportunities
  • Providing more structured pathways has the potential to affect all support services and instructional programs by requiring better communication and integration of services.

This report explains terms, provides examples of current efforts, and offers suggestions to help colleges with implementation.

Note: This is the second report in the Game Changers series, designed for use by colleges to generate discussion about innovative models for increasing completion rates substantially. Each topic is addressed through five sections—an overview, examples in practice, implementation challenges, sample engagement questions, and references. The sections are intended to be used separately or as a whole, depending on the audience and needs.

Other reports in the Game Changers series include:

  • Acceleration in Developmental Education
  • Integrating Student Supports and Academics