Imagine entering a maze with no map, no bread crumbs, and no clue how to get to the exit. That’s how a lot of students feel about starting college. Fortunately, RCC has discovered a solution. It’s called Guided Pathways.
“We help students from the very start to explore academic and career options, choose a program of study, and develop a plan or ‘map’ of courses needed to get from their first day of classes to graduation,” said Leo Hirner, RCC vice president of Instruction. These pre-designed courses of study (Guided Pathways) help ensure students stay in school and finish their program well prepared for what’s next, whether that’s a transfer degree or a job.
Guided Pathways is a state-wide effort involving several community colleges throughout Oregon. RCC has been participating since spring of 2018.
Currently the college is in Phase One of the Pathways project, working hard to develop better program maps for each degree, including specific courses and measures of progress, so that students can complete their education in a reasonably short time frame and with minimal credit loss. Phase Two will involve developing better strategies to help students choose and start a path, which will primarily impact student advising. RCC is on track to make Guided Pathways available by the 2020-2021 academic year.
“Students often don’t have a clear sense of what they want out of college, and as a consequence, they tend to drift through their classes without a sense of purpose, and often end up either quitting without the degree, or as a best case scenario, transferring to a university with a great many elective credits and a mountain of student loan debt,” explained Verne Underwood, RCC Humanities chair.
Guided Pathways responds to this obstacle by empowering students to choose a clear academic path and pursue it—with guidance from committed instructors along the way. “This will result in higher transfer and graduation rates and lower levels of student debt, better advising, and more engaged students since they know what they want out of college and out of their classes,” Verne added. Ultimately, Guided Pathways will help students identify life goals and achieve them. For many people in our community, that means a higher education and better-paying job than previous family generations. “A college degree changes your life,” Verne said. “It can interrupt a long cycle of generational poverty.”