- How is a pathway different than a learning community?
Pathways differ from learning communities in that a pathway leads to a job or transfer. Many times learning communities are focused on supporting a specific population through their first or second semester in community college. In some cases, the learning community will provide support to the students even after they have completed the program. A pathway guides students from the beginning of the pathway to the end of the pathway with support services, clear course maps, connections to careers and transfer programs, and academic and non-academic milestone tracking.
- Isn’t every program or major a pathway?
No, the differentiation between a program and a pathway is the guidance, wraparound support, and connection to careers and industry. Pathways provide students with more than a sequence of classes leading to a degree or certificate. Pathways support students along the way, providing clear choices, connections to supportive resources, career counseling, and predictive course schedules that enable students to plan ahead.
- I know CTE programs have career pathways, but how does that involve Liberal Arts?
Students come to college to gain earning potential. In the report titled “Student Voices in Higher Education” students reported enrolling in community college “to enhance their financial and professional potential by attaining a postsecondary degree or certificate.” Roughly 60% of CCSF students declared “undecided” as their major before the option was removed. Students need guidance as they explore their options at CCSF. Pathways across all academic areas help student enter and exit the workforce and avoid losing units. This is critical at this time in our country as students can and do max out their financial aid, so they have less freedom to explore without some direction. Pathways can offer direction that allow students to explore programs and majors while accumulating GE credits for degrees, certificates, and transfer.
- Shouldn’t students be able to explore?
Yes, students should be able to explore and can still explore in the Guided Pathway model, but they are assisted in their exploration so that they don’t take units that will be wasted. With the change in Federal Financial Aid maximums students can a will max out their financial aid. If students do this before they have reached their educational goals, they will have to try to find a way to complete their education without aid. By guiding students exploration, students will lose fewer units, ensuring that they do not max out their financial aid before reaching their education and training goals.
- Will Guided Pathways push out the liberal arts?
No, Guided Pathways clarify the pathways to careers and further education for students. Programs are not pushed out as colleges redesign for Guided Pathways. Liberal Arts programs will be more clearly mapped to careers, transfer institutions, and other programs at CCSF.
- Why now?
There are many reasons why a guided pathways approach is more important now than ever before:
· As mentioned above, financial aid requirements have changed so that students can max out their aid.
· Many community college students are spinning without direction, accumulating units, using financial aid, but not making it any closer to a degree or certificate.
· CCSF has a high number of underprepared prepared students starting at the college each semester. To ensure that those students can reach their educational goals before they deplete financial aid, get frustrated with their slow progress, or drop out due to life circumstances, the college needs to develop clear program maps that include multiple entry and exit points so that students can make informed decisions about the educational path and plan exit points if needed.
· CCSF has major equity gaps for first generation college students. First generation college students struggle with navigating the number of offerings in college and often times do not have any support outside of the college to help them plan their educational and career path.
- How do students feel about pathways?
In the 2014 Student Equity forums, clearer pathways to certificates, degrees, and transfer were echoed by students across the college. The college is currently working with the RP Group to gather more information about what students need and want to help clarify their educational pathways at CCSF.
- How do faculty feel about pathways?
Faculty were surveyed in Fall 2016. 75% of faculty stated that they feel clear pathways and Guided Pathways were the most promising way to increase student success and completion in CCSF programs.
- What about lifelong learners?
Lifelong learners tend to need less guidance, seeking education or training in specific areas of interest. These students will still be able to enroll in CCSF classes of their choosing as they do now.
- Why do we need pathways at CCSF?
The majority of students entering CCSF are undecided about a major or career path. To assist students in finding a focus while they are at CCSF before they become disheartened by their slow progress toward a degree or certificate, the college is obligated to help them make informed education and career decisions. Pathways can introduce students to high-wage, high-growth careers in the region, they can provide students with opportunities to learn more about the educational requirements for different careers and the time commitment to reach the career ladders. With this information, students are able to make informed decisions that not only fit their interests, but are also realistic to the time and resources they have available to dedicate to their education.
- Isn’t Guided Pathway a new way of “tracking”?
No. A guided pathway helps students to make informed decisions about their education and careers. Well-developed guided pathways allow students to explore and switch majors without losing credits, making the best use of new financial aid restrictions. Tracking was used as a means of separating students of different skills levels. Pathways are used to help students make informed life decisions while decreasing lost time and credits.
- How do Guided Pathways help with persistence and completion?
Because Guided Pathways are designed with clear program maps, predictable schedules that students can plan their lives around, targeted counseling and early alert systems, and academic and non-academic milestone acknowledgement students stay motivated and connected to their program outcomes and personal goals. The onramping process and clear entry and exit points tied to wage gain and career goals allows students to easily move in and out of the program without losing time or units. All of these core design elements help students persist and complete their pathway program.
- If my department wants to get involved with Guided Pathways work at CCSF, where do I start?
The Career and Transfer Pathways committee holds annual Pathways Onramping events where you can learn about the college’s current pathways goals. At these events you will be connected with other faculty and administrators working on pathways who can help you identify the best way to plug into the college’s current pathways efforts. If you find that a new pathway effort is needed in your area of the college, you should start your planning by conducting a needs gap analysis.