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Guided Pathways at Community Colleges: From Theory to Practice

By: Thomas Bailey
Guided Pathways at Community Colleges: From Theory to Practice

Over the past two decades, better data have led to a better understanding of how students are faring in college. With this information, educators and policymakers have been pushing for reform under the banner of the completion agenda. Colleges and systems have implemented initiatives on college readiness, developmental education, advising, the use of data, and a host of other improvements. But research by CCRC and others has led to a key insight: Individual reforms that involve relatively few students or that touch only a piece of the student experience are not enough to measurably improve graduation rates or other key indicators of institutional success. The effects of even significant reforms within one segment of a student’s college career—for example, developmental education—fade over time if nothing changes in the rest of the college. CCRC researchers​ Thomas Bailey,​ Shanna Smith Jaggars,​ and Davis Jenkins argue​ ​in their ​recent book, Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (2015)​​ that what is needed is a comprehensive reform model that transforms the entire college to focus on student success.

This article describes the guided pathways model​, which​ involves redesigning each part of the student experience, from the stage where students choose programs and start remedial or college-level work to the time of graduation, when they move on to further education or careers​. And it reviews current reform efforts taking place at over 250 colleges across the United States.

This article was published in Diversity & Democracy, vol. 20, no. 4.