Guided Pathways program: An effective strategy for increasing postsecondary education attainment

A Partnership for Learning commentary in the Seattle Times provides insight into Guided Pathways, an innovative program that has demonstrated success in helping students complete postsecondary education. 

We’ve written before of the Washington Roundtable’s research demonstrating the importance of a postsecondary credential in today’s economy. The Partnership for Learning commentary describes how Guided Pathways boosts credential attainment.

The approach, used in Washington’s community and technical colleges, is a step-by-step road map through a two-year degree. It simplifies choices, grouping courses together to form clear paths through college and into careers, whether students start those careers right after their college graduation or transfer to a university for continued study.

Advisers help students choose a path, stay on the path and get a degree or certificate.

There are other, direct benefits to students from having guidance through the system.

They’re also more likely to save time and money. Many students become overwhelmed or take unnecessary credits as they try to decide what to study and which classes to take. Pierce Data Solutions Developer Carly Haddon says in 2016, about 16 percent of Pierce students were taking at least five credits more than they needed for their degree, amounting to 13,000 excess credits, or $3 million dollars per year. A clear path clarifies the courses needed to get students out into the workforce or to a transfer school faster, which is especially important for students with limited financial resources.

The program benefits currently from private support.

Heather M. Gingerich is senior program officer at College Spark Washington in Seattle, a nonprofit which funds programs to increase college success and close equity gaps for low-income students in Washington state. “Research shows that students who enroll in a specific program of study are much more likely to complete their credential than students who enroll in college and take classes ‘cafeteria style,’ ” she says.

College Spark Washington is providing more than $7 million in private grant funding to support development of Guided Pathway programs at 10 of the state’s 34 community and technical colleges.

Advocates hope to see the program expanded next year.

Washington Roundtable is supporting expansion of the Guided Pathways program in the 2019-21 biennium. “The Guided Pathways program has demonstrated success in supporting and ensuring more students complete a post-high school credential, which is critical if we are going to increase the credential attainment rate from 40 percent to our goal of 70 percent by the high school class of 2030,” says Neil Strege, vice president of the Washington Roundtable.

A sound investment in expanded opportunity for Washingtonians.