Pathway for education

The statewide initiative Guided Pathways, designed to help students complete their educational goals, is being implemented in a number of community colleges and Pierce is taking steps to be involved in the program.

Guided Pathways provides a framework for colleges to offer students coherent educational plans and resources intended to increase the speed and rate at which they graduate.

“It’s a structured approach that helps all students, not just a pilot that helps maybe 30 or 40 of them,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs Sheri Berger. “With Guided Pathways, we’re taking a step back and asking how we can help students meet their goals in an organized way.”

According to Berger, the initiative will help students make informed decisions about what classes to take regardless of whether or not they have a declared major.

If a student is not entirely sure of what they would like to study, the educational plans created through Guided Pathways will ensure that the classes the student takes to explore options are relevant to what the student’s expressed interests.

Cabrillo College is listed on the California Guided Pathways website as one of 20 community colleges tasked with designing academic structures that will be implemented to aid students.

In an email interview, Terrence Willett, Cabrillo College’s Dean of Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, said that colleges applying Guided Pathways will adjust their enrollment processes and provide understandable direction to make it easier for students to take the classes they need.

“Colleges will restructure their programs and information to make the enrollment and registration process more clear and less frustrating,” Willett said. “Students will also have their major choices and career pathways simplified so they can start their process to certificate, degree or transfer in their first semester.”

Berger said that the initiative will also include support systems that will help students stay on the paths laid out for them. She said students come in and get their abbreviated education plans, but there is no support if problems occur.

“The Guided Pathways program is like building a highway to success; right now we’re building it, and we’re trying to incorporate various on-ramps by making student-ed plans more comprehensive and introducing cross-disciplinary teams that they can go to for aid,” Berger said.

According to Margarita Pillado, the Faculty Accreditation Coordinator, the program was organized to address a noticeable decrease in graduation rates.

“Data across the state is showing that fewer students are finishing college with degrees. This is not a Pierce issue or a California issue, it’s a nationwide issue,” Pillado said. “The program is an effort to make sure that colleges intentionally plan a curriculum that works for students.”

Pillado said that Pierce has organized a task force to assess the college and ensure that it meets a set of criteria established by Guided Pathways. These criteria need to be met before the college can develop and submit a multiyear plan to implement the program and be reviewed by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

A successful review, according to Pillado, will allot Pierce the funds to implement its vision of the Guided Pathways program.

Berger said the program will allow Pierce to operate more efficiently and help students realize their ambitions.

“Everybody wants to be someplace and has a goal, and we have to help you reach that goal. We shouldn’t be putting obstacles and barriers in front of that,” Berger said. “Sometimes, there are obstacles that are unintentional. This is an opportunity for us to really look at our structure and help all students reach their goals.”